PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Low Millions: Ex-Girlfriends

David Brecheisen

Adam Cohen's (yes, Leonard's son) new record stands next to its competitors on AC or AAA radio with moderate success.

Low Millions


Label: Manhattan
US Release Date: 2004-10-05
UK Release Date: Available as import

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where Low Millions' founder and front man Adam Cohen drew the inspiration for their new album, Ex-Girlfriends. The title leads the listener to believe that the enclosed 11 songs are going to be heartfelt tales of love squandered and naiveté lost. But in fact the opposite is true. The songs come across as revisionist romantic tales and half-truths. They feel authored by Rob Gordon from Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, creating a sketch of a decent, sensitive guy with an ocean of melancholy just below the surface, just because he can.

Adam Cohen is the son of famed poet/musician Leonard Cohen. While I don't think it's entirely fair to compare artists to their parents, I'm going to do it anyway. In this case, I think it's especially poignant. Adam Cohen's lyrics, while personal, fail to reach the larger themes of love and life that Leonard Cohen is able to tap, while at the same time providing vivid, personal stories. Instead, he trips over his honesty, and the resultant poetry reads like a censored version of his diary. Some of this is because Low Millions undertook the massive task of marrying slick pop melodies and production with emotionally challenging subject matter. It's not impossible to fuse the two, but in most cases something has to give and most of the time both suffer. Too often, the music stretches itself thin trying to overcompensate while lyrics usually have to be over-simplified and sterilized to work with the friendly melodies. Nearly all of the songs on Ex-Girlfriends suffer from one or the other.

The Low Millions don't help themselves much. They drench the most honest songs in shimmering pop production. In "Jane", when Cohen sings, "Hey Jane, I'm getting wasted / Hey Jane, I'm so alone", the image should be easy enough to conjure up. I can't think of anyone who hasn't written a similar song in their head while coddled over a bottle of booze late on a Friday night. (Your respective (ex-)other is out on the town, no doubt starring in all kinds of adult films, and you're at home with an Air Supply record or Dr. Who reruns). Unfortunately, instead of fostering the image, the Low Millions hide themselves behind slick guitars, burying the honesty.

Tracks such as "Statue" and "Here She Comes" evoke Achtung Baby-era U2. Guitars echo in the distance through heavy reverb while the rhythm section dutifully fulfills its role. Some of Low Millions' reflection of U2's foray into glam may be because Cohen and company enlist the help of multiple pop veterans to assist in production, including David Kahne (Sugar Ray, Mathew Sweet) and Pat Leonard (Madonna) -- with mixed results. The fruits of Leonard's production on "Money Thing" and "Nikki Don't Stop" are less than stunning, although in all fairness, he wasn't given much to work with. They are the two weakest songs on the album. On "Nikki Don't Stop", Cohen's lyrics are down-right awful ("Hotter than a Puerto Rican mama / Suckin' on ice in sauna"), not to mention a little creepy ("Hotter than a little cheerleader / Throwing back cheap tequila"). The song flirts just this-side of a Tenacious D parody of a Prince tune that shares a similar title.

Those songs that aren't completely saturated with studio sterility are pleasant pop listens. At their best, on "Julia" and "Low Millions", the band complements Cohen's lamentations and heartache. "Julia" is a heartfelt breakup song, but the Low Millions are able to bring Cohen's lyrics to life, giving the song some depth where many of the others are lacking. The title track/band name is about struggling to regain the part of you that dies post-breakup. Here the self-aware lyrics are accompanied by shimmering pop instrumentation that ultimately underscores the melody and what Low Millions are striving for as a band.

As a pop album, Ex-Girlfriends stands next to its competitors on AC or AAA radio with moderate success. Certainly I would reach for this before many of the other would-be sensitive singer songwriters posturing about and waiting to sleep with your girlfriend after their show, but as an honest, expunging of the soul (as the title implies) the album falls short.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.