Field Commander Cohen

By Henry Sørensen

According to legend, Bob Dylan once chanced upon Leonard Cohen and praised him for his song “Hallelujah”. “Well, it oughta be good“, Cohen replied, “it took me 15 years to finish“. The always courteous Cohen then returned the praise by congratulating Dylan for his song “Every Grain of Sand”. “Thanks“, Dylan said smugly, “I wrote it in 15 minutes“.

Whether true or not, the story speaks volumes of the differences in both modus operandi and self-esteem between two of the greatest singer-songwriters of the past fifty years. And while the highly prolific Dylan embarked on his self-proclaimed never-ending tour many years ago – and may indeed be “going down that dirt road until his eyes begin to bleed” – the more seclusive Cohen simultaneously shied away from all public appearances, adding just three records of new material in the past twenty years to an already modest discography.

The last time I stood on a stage was 14 years ago“, the 73-year-old Leonard Cohen told an enthusiastic audience last Saturday at Rosenborg Castle in the centre of Copenhagen, “I was just a 60 year old kid with a crazy dream!


wu_london_2008.jpgWhen the Wu-Tang Clan dropped the album 8 Diagrams last year, it seemed like something of a miracle, since the crew has been steadily disintegrating over creative and financial differences — a lot of them aired in in public — over the last few years. Now they’re on tour. All of them! But judging from last night’s show in London, they’re still far from the tightly knit unit they were in the mid-90s. Although they put on an energetic show, the cracks seemed to be showing.

When last week they played in Copenhagen, the reports from fans were poor to middling — basically they brought their well-known, little rehearsed, anarchic 10-odd dudes yelling on stage-approach to performing, which is good and well when it works, but less so when half of them aren’t up for it. The London show had one major advantage on the Copenhagen one, though: Method Man. Last week, he cancelled at the last minute, but here he was very much present, acting the natural centre of the proceedings and really giving it his all. Clear on the mic, charismatic and seemingly happy to be on stage, he made the concert.

Wreck Time Is Over

Right, so nothing’s been happening in this space for ages. Sorry about that — been busy being home, and writing up Roskilde at that other site. I thought, however, that since the hangover has kind of passed and sleep has been caught up on, but a tinge of that signature elation still remains, I’d blog a little about this year’s festival before we move on.

Comics Criticism and Conflicts of Interest

All right, back from Roskilde, about which more soon. In the meantime, Chris Mautner has convened a new critics’ roundtable over at Blog@Newsarama, this time dealing with the problems of conflicts of interest arising from friendships and acquaintances between critics and artists in the comics subculture. Inspired by this post by Tim Hodler, Mautner asked a number of critics to express their take on this issue. Here’s my contribution:

I definitely recognize Tim’s sentiments, and have often had the same thoughts. The comics subculture, as mentioned, is such a small pond that a conflict of interest will invariably manifest itself for any given critic. In Denmark, where the community is tiny by comparison with the US, this problem is naturally compounded, and I’ve certainly had my share of problems in that particular context. And, in any case, critics of other areas of cultural production experience much the same thing, even if their particular field is a much larger one, such as contemporary fiction or rock music.

Back in the Trenches

Right, so I haven’t updated this thing since Thursday. I’ve been busy here, back in Denmark. And now it’s business as usual as I head towards the dirt fields of Roskilde. Last year was the deluge, but this year is promising to be sunny all the way, so there’s that — also, I will as always be writing criticism for, so those of you who read Danish can follow my itinerary over there. Next week I’ll be back in England, on the grind, and activity on here will probably ramp up as a result. Got a lot of interesting material in the pipeline, so stay tuned…

Photo: Bo Pee.

Picks of the Week

“I see Benjamins and a billion other big head people/ I’m a natural born hustler, Marcy Projects motherfucker/ Turned professional journalist reportin, live from the gutter/ My girl, carry boxcutters, rubbers, shoot up with undercovers screamin’/ FUCK THE WORLD, why, cause, don’t nobody love us/ Shawn Carter, Sean Bell, what’s the difference? Do tell/ 50 shots or 50 mill’, ain’t no difference go to hell/ So, BRRRAK, lick a shot for, BRRRACK Obama, change gon’ come-ah/ I’mma buy the whole hood llamas on me/Roc nation army, million strong and the mantra’s gon’ be/It is whatever it’s gon’ be, on three/ Shawn, in the Hum V, y’all can call it cold warm/Declarin, I’m free, bumpin ‘Pac and the Outlawz/ I’m flyer than all outdoors, I ball out pours/ I buy, champagne companies, I’m past buyin out bars/ But I do that, I’m so past, G5’s and G4’s/ But I flew, back, back and forth like Aaliyah (rest in peace to ya)/ Takes a nation of millions to hold us back/ But when your boy reach a billion it’s a wrap (off of RAP?) YEAH!”

— Jay-Z freestyle over “A Milli”

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • The New York Times: Inside a 9/11 Mastermind’s Interrogation, Scott Shane. A fascinating, if lamentably incomplete look behind the scenes of the CIA’s overseas interrogation of 9/11 suspects, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, focusing on the interrogator Deuce Martinez who developed what was regarded as a special rapport with Mohammad and other suspects.
  • The New Republic: Postcards from Nowhere, Jed Pearl. A trenchant modernist criticism of postmodernist artists Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, and Olafur Eliasson amongst others, as well as the exhibition spaces that host them. There’s a lot to disagree with here, but Pearl’s argument is both impassioned and intelligent and well worth a read. Thanks, Dirk.

  • Vibe. Once again, the link to the “A Milli” freestyles that was linked to in our review of Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III. Check out Jay-Z, Corey Gunz, Jadakiss, Lil Mama, Chris Brown, LL Cool J and a bunch of others spitting over the beat of the year! With comments by producer Bangladesh.
  • Hype: Kring/Weneethryl år 25.060

    Fredag d. 27, i morgen, holder galleriet Rumkammerat reception på en udstilling af en af dansk tegneseries mere idiosynkratiske og originale kunstnere, Paul Arne Krings originaler fra den nys udsendte Weneethryl år 25.060 (Forlaget Forlæns). Uden tvivl årets mest uventede og skæve udgivelse — Kring har ikke lavet tegneserier i snart mange, mange år, men har derimod efterhånden opbygget sig godfather-status blandt danske dukkemagere. Weneethryl år 25.060 således opfølgeren på det 35-år gamle kulthæfte Weneetryhl år 25.025 og skal i øvrigt ses for at tros.

    Receptionen løber fra kl. 16.00. Vel mødt!

    The Sun Also Rises

    new_york_edelman_sebastian.jpgAt moment there’s a rare chance to see a little-known work by Titian in London. Partridge Fine Art is displaying a Saint Sebastian from his hand as part of a a major show of old master paintings (runs till July 18). I haven’t yet been, but I’m familiar with the picture, which I’ve seen in New York. It is quite beautiful and especially the wonderfully evocative, moist evening-lit landscape is remarkable, and leaves no doubt that the master himself painted it, even if assistants may have been responsible for laying in the figure.

    Possibly identical with a canvas sent to the duke of Mantua in 1530, and in any case roughly datable to around that year on the basis of its style, the figure of Saint Sebastian as we see him here very close to the one Titian painted as part of his Saint Nicholas altarpiece, now in the Vatican. The most likely scenario is that it was developed for that composition and extracted for the present canvas while the larger composition was still being completed (there is disagreement as to when the latter was finished, but it seems most likely to have been in the mid-1530s). It is thus a prime example of how Titian would recycle his inventions, extracting them from one composition and inserting them in a different context. Though by no means an uncommon practice amongst Renaissance artists, Titian’s way of doing it was highly original and bears witness to a constantly fluctuating creative mind, rethinking and reworking his ideas again and again throughout his career.