Saturday, 2 June 2018

Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Imperial Bedroom (1982)

What's going on behind the green elevator door....

  

Released July 1982

Recorded at Air Studios, London

Running time 50.48

By 1982, the “new wave” had faded somewhat, the two tone thing had gone the same way and the preposterous flouncings of “new romanticism” abounded. Little more than five years and six albums later - was Elvis Costello still relevant? His previous album had been received with incredulity from may of his punk/new wave fans because it was an album of country and western songs. While "Almost Blue" was what it was, it must be remembered that the album nine months previous to that, "Trust" had been a mini-masterpiece of polished, organ-driven, bassy pop with Costello's now trademark cynical lyrical edge to the fore. It was also notable for its delving into different styles, though, and this is continued on this, arguably his best album. 

Although commercially, his star was waning a little bit, he remained highly respected and showed himself to be an artist who was prepared to diversify and push his own boundaries, albeit still at the moment within the confines of his band, The Attractions. He certainly did that with this, which in many ways was his “Sgt Pepper”.

TRACK LISTING

1. Beyond Belief

2. Tears Before Bedtime
3. Shabby Doll
4. The Long Honeymoon
5. Man Out Of Time
6. Almost Blue
7. ...And In Every Home
8. The Loved Ones
9. Human Hands
10. Kid About It
11. Little Savage
12. Boy With A Problem
13. Pidgin English
14. You Little Fool
15. Town Cryer                                           

Ironically, employing the very engineer who worked on “Pepper”, Geoff Emerick, Costello and his band produced a “chocolate box” of an album, with tracks differing from track to track, from the short and snappy, bass-driven “Beyond Belief” to the tuneful pop of “Human Hands” to the longer, mysterious, edgy “Shabby Doll”


Then to the gentle piano ballad of “The Long Honeymoon” and the slow torch song “Almost Blue”. A great pop single is there in the catchy, riffy “You Little Fool” and “Man Out Of Time” is classic overblown Costello. “Little Savage”, “Pidgin English”, “..And In Every Home” and the echoey “Kid About It” are all equally impressive.

The musicianship is top class throughout and, as we had now come to expect, beneath what sometimes appeared jaunty, catchy melodies lay dark, sombre lyrics and images. There is a bitterness and a brutality the like of which, even for Costello, had not been expressed before. Songs like "Tears Before Bedtime", "The Loved Ones" and "Human Hands" are all awash with lush orchestration and sonic perfection, yet bristle with that perplexing angst that Costello was rapidly making his own. 

It is certainly not an instantly appealing album. There is nothing on it that can be approximated as "rock" music. It is an exercise in trying to produce pop perfection, but with a lyrical cutting edge. For that reason, it took me quite a long time to “get into” this album when it came out. To be honest, it was probably fifteen years or so later that I really began to truly appreciate it. Therein lies its appeal, however.  Even now, I still find it a fascinating listen. Highly recommended. It still sounds good today. Most importantly, it is the first album that gained Elvis Costello true respect, across he board, not just from his fans or peers. 

B+

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