Leonard Cohen was always a wordsmith’s wordsmith. Come the year of this release, 1988, he was a veteran songwriter who had already had numerous classic records under his belt. This record is quite notable for its embrace of a more typically ’80s aesthetic than any of Cohen’s other records. Another thing that becomes clear on this record, as well as throughout the progression of Cohen’s career, is that his voice became noticeably raspier as time went on. Cohen was in a good state of mind when this record was released. Even noting that he thought his voice had improved as time wore on. What quality of a record would he give us on ‘I’m Your Man’?
The opening track of this record is one of Cohen’s most bone-chilling songs, “First We Take Manhattan” (written by him, but actually first recorded by Jennifer Warnes). This track is about terrorism and fascism. After this opening track, Cohen throws us a bit of a curve ball with “Ain’t No Cure for Love”, which is noticeably more upbeat than the previous track. Then, of course, we get to “Everybody Knows”, which is one of Cohen’s greatest tracks ever recorded. This song is simply one of the most menacing and cynical songs ever recorded. Famous upon release for addressing the AIDS issue, as well as other notable social issues, it has grown in menace over the years. Listening to this song today, you realize that, as time goes on, this song becomes more potent and timely. It’s 2017 now, and the most appropriate way to characterize the song today is to understand that it’s ultimately the song that spells our doom. The lingering, relentless obsession that the song carries is one that time simply can’t escape. If it doesn’t make the hairs on your neck and arms stand up, you aren’t doing something right.
There really aren’t any blatant faults with this record. It remains interesting and engaging from start to finish, for the most part. So, what we essentially get, is an ’80s update of a Cohen masterpiece. Outside of “Everybody Knows” and “First We Take Manhattan”, however, it becomes noticeable that this record is perhaps a bit more lighthearted than other Cohen records. In a review from Rolling Stone, it was said that this is the first Cohen record that could be listened to in the daylight hours. There is a bit of truth to this statement. Even the most intense artists are capable of letting light shine through every so often! Still, for your daily indulgence in existential doom, don’t forget to spin “Everybody Knows”. Arguably one of Cohen’s best records. Probably not his absolute best.