Chris Cohen started out his career as bassist for Deerhoof in the early 2000s on releases such as Apple O and Milkman, before then performing with Ariel Pink and Cass McCombs and as well as producing and playing drums for Weyes Blood. The multi-instrumentalist, who was born in LA into a family that already had a foot in the music industry, has just released his third solo record, which is a meditation on his life, and family. Chris Cohen is as apt a title as any, as it would appear to be a personal depiction of his emotional turmoil.
In the late 1960s, early 70s, Kip Cohen, Chris’ father joined Columbia Records under Clive Davis, as VP of Artists and Repertoire (signing Billy Joel). Later he joined A&M Records (Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss) in Hollywood in the same capacity signing artists like Styx, Pablo Cruise, The Captain & Tennille, and others. Chris Cohen intimately grapples with their relationship to one another, his father coming out and addiction, culminating his most stunning record to date, juxtaposing a beautiful handle of lyrics with evocative psych-pop. Written and recorded in his Lincoln Heights studio and at Tropico Beauties in Glendale, California over the last two years, he took on board the instrumental help of Katy Davidson, Luke Csehak, Zach Phillips, and Kasey Knudsen on the saxophone, which occasionally adds a jazz element to this LP.
This meditation on life and family is cathartic listening, delicate yet unflinching. It sucks you in, and you just want to listen in. However, as you do so, you feel somewhat voyeuristic, as he shares the truth of his family, divorcing whilst the record was made. Complex and emotive, Chris Cohen considers the life and formidable issues that surrounded his family life, which despite the richness of the music, makes at times for difficult listening. Universally and relatively, it can also depict the complex structures and relationships that make up the core of many families, and when considered with this in mind, it’s actually a significant record for many that have been through turmoil with their relatives.
Song They Play is sedate, sultry and lyrical, “their terror was my dream, they gave me codeine.” Green Eyes has a great bass line, and yet anecdotal, Sweet William is however the standout track for me. Clear influences of Blur and Badly Drawn Boy are to be found within this track, along with lyrics such as “the language, the body lingers on, like music lost in the fog.” House Carpenter is stripped down, which allows you to succinctly hear those words, “a curse, a curse to the sailor she cried, a curse, a curse she swore, you’ve robbed me of my sweet little babe, whose face I’ll never see anymore.” It almost feels like an anecdotal poem, set to a little music. What Can I Do has somewhat of an eighties vibe to it, guitar, synth, seductive bass and snare-drum backing his questioning. Heavy Weather Sailing is a quick ditty, more up-tempo than the rest of the album, metaphorical in it’s lyrics.
Formidable yet melodic, there is a great deal going on with this album, but it’s personal tone certainly renders it more than listenable, and has put Chris Cohen on my musical radar.
Chris Cohen is available now, via Captured Tracks.