Since 2016’s Full Disclosure And No Details, Gabriella Cohen’s made strides. She’s toured the US with kindred throwbacks Foxygen and travelled Europe. But there’s tears at the edges of the rose-tinted gloss.
These highs have come punctuated with jarring lows. By the admission of her own lyric, she’s drawn a seat at the party but isn’t feeling the scene. She’s been grappling with the realities of the music machine. This artist’s second record documents these heady times.
Cohen’s mind is often trapped in solitude and transit. Surrealism and paranoiac observation decorate her world. Words skip between sombre and ecstatic in a moment but are never short of a clever turn.
Her sound comes spiced with classic devices and catching hooks. A moment of spectacular melancholy, ‘Baby’ carries an elaborate flash. Clever songwriting paired with intricate turns and near brilliant arrangements.
Cohen doesn’t chase prevailing trends but threads her own fantasy. ‘Mercy’ jams out like the Messenger Service. Reaching back into golden ages past while namechecking American surrounds. ‘Miserable Baby’ wrenches the teenage heart like Ritchie Valens’ ‘Donna’, a bittersweet romance of bedroom recluse.
‘Hi Fidelity’ deals a cool gender inversion. Cohen can travel through vulnerable emotional terrain but even at her most heart-laid-bare, there’s touches of showbiz glam. Time takes a cigarette at puts it in your mouth and all that.
This record is an education in songcraft – and Gabriella shouldn’t take all the credit here she’s always worked with a talented band behind her - but where does an album like Pink Is The Colour Of Unconditional Love leave a creative like Cohen in 2018? The classic rock generation is fading. Are artists of this kind the missing link between past glories and some future greatness? Or are they simply launching into a beautiful swansong as the building burns down?
There are moments this artist touches on grandiose visions of cracked genius. Pink tells that in a world ever narrowing in taste there’s more than just one conversation, one style, and one sound. There’s another place you can go. Cohen may draw upon the precedent of the past but she’s stating the freedom of the present.
‘Sky Rico’ puts on its best Leonard Cohen-Lou Reed-Bob Dylan brood to chronicle this disintegration and faded glory. But it’s touched with a charge of idealism. Cohen doesn’t just invoke her musical heroes, she creates in that self-same spirit. The fabric of what once made others great may be torn, tattered or cast aside, but here they’re repurposed in vibrant technicolour.
Which leads us to the real rub. Another music lifer looking to get the slip on a soul extracting industry to win the ears of a largely indifferent world. Too much brilliance, not enough recognition. Internationally acclaimed but still jumping the dole queue. Somebody do this sister a solid.
Words by Riley Fitzgerald