On his debut album Bloom Forever, Thomas Cohen actualises the cliche of turning pain into beauty in a way that is almost unparalleled. Aged only 23, the former S.C.U.M frontman became the widow of Peaches Geldof, after discovering his wife (whom he had two children with) dead of a heroin overdose. This is a solo debut unlike any other, and the reason it's taken me over a month of this record being out to finally be able to sit down and review it is because it's such an agonisingly honest way of dealing with unimaginable pain that I didn't want to rush into trying to write about the record. Bloom Forever is a powerful, graphic, mature, and above all, beautiful way of turning almost unimaginable pain into staggeringly poignant art.
"Why weren’t her eyes covered and closed?" Cohen asks on Country Home, the song that deals with Peaches' death most explicitly. The lyrics are brutal, literal, and don't really leave room for any interpretation other than the body of someone the artist loved "turned cold". It's just such an instant, powerful track, complemented by a haunting echo and instrumentation that shifts emphasis onto Cohen's powerful vocals.
On the grandiose closer Mother Mary, he sings about "trying to leave part of me in love with you," a more distant take on loss. On this, his voice wafts underneath moving piano motifs and cosmic synth whirrs, which is really texturally gorgeous, a really sonic ephedra. In fact, with the heaviness of the subject matter, it's all too easy to look past the elegance that the instrumentation alone possesses.
The first two songs on the record are especially indicative of this. Honeymoon has this kinda forlorn guitar strum as its main motif that lingers atop his Brett Anderson-esque vocals, before its interjected with this quite frankly arresting brass (sax?) solo that undulates and escalates in the most hypnotic fashion imaginable. The pop noir Bloom Forever has a similar sort of forlorn opiated feel to it, that has this gripping minutelong guitar solo that just completely pulls you into this world of acceptance sadness that Cohen has hand crafted on this album.
Country Home, Bloom Forever and piano based ballad Only Us are the highlights in what is one of the most amazing solo debuts there is. Over the past three years, Thomas Cohen's faced the breakup of his band, the death of his wife, the birth of his children, and this solo debut encompasses all of that in a way that sees the charismatic East London troubadour come out the other side as a completely mesmeric, captivating solo artist.
Words: Calum Cashin