Thomas Cohen – ‘Bloom Forever’ Review

Thomas Cohen moves on from the death of his wife, Peaches Geldof, with a compelling and sophisticated solo album

In July 2012, back when he fronted gothy, east London synth group S.C.U.M, Thomas Cohen was interviewed by arts website in a video titled ‘S.C.U.M Dine With Me’. In it, the perfectly-crimped Cohen flits enjoyably around a kitchen making soup. The sleeve of his Americana-inspired and explicitly personal solo debut ‘Bloom Forever’ is similarly appealing. Wearing tinted shades and eye-poppingly red trousers, Cohen’s arms hang as if he’s about to break into dance craze, ‘the robot’.

But the path the 25-year-old’s life has taken since his S.C.U.M days is at odds with such playfulness. His former band failed to capitalise on 2011’s debut ‘Again Into Eyes’ and split in January 2013. By then, Cohen had married Peaches Geldof – the celebrity daughter of Bob Geldof and Paula Yates – and had a son, Astala. In April his second, Phaedra, was born. The family moved to Kent’s countryside to escape tabloid attention and the London party scene that shadowed Geldof, who was fighting heroin addiction. But in April 2014, Cohen found his wife dead in their spare room after an overdose.

He revisits that moment on the album’s centrepiece ‘Country Home’, singing, “My love had gone/She’d turned so cold/Why weren’t her eyes/Covered and closed”, over maudlin guitar. After a bracing crescendo, it fades with three repetitions of “You couldn’t make it through”. Cohen sounds isolated and desperately sad. Bombarded by synths that recall Bowie’s ‘Low’, ‘Mother Mary’ is similar, with Cohen grasping for “The part of me that is still in love with you”. But anyone sniffing around ‘Bloom Forever’ with voyeuristic intent will leave disappointed.

The main gossip here – that Cohen is a compelling, sophisticated musician exploring a new sound – will placate music mags only. This nine-song album (titled using Phaedra’s middle names) chronologically navigates four immensely affecting years using swinging country (‘Hazy Shades’, ‘New Morning Comes’) theatrical vocals (‘Morning Fall’) and brassy ballads (‘Honeymoon’). It’s also full of ridiculously indulgent soloing (see the guitar on ‘Bloom Forever’). The only instantly recognisable element is Cohen’s voice, which still slithers like Suede frontman Brett Anderson’s.

Cohen’s obvious enthusiasm for his music humanises the man behind the headlines. When he sings about drinking tap water on ‘Only Us’, he’s as relatable as the guy who once consented to making soup on camera