Sunday, February 10, 2013
Lyrically sharp with grand arrangements to support them, the songs presented on "Imperial Bedroom" are incredibly ambitious and sound (thankfully) nothing like the empty-headed "New Wave" groups of that period. It wasn't of its time, though remains a favorite of mine because it makes no attempt to embrace the embarrassing trends that were becoming prevalent in the 80's. (He would sadly fall into that trap once on "Goodbye Cruel World" and it would be his worst effort.)
Costello emerged from the UK in the late 70's, making music every bit as creative as those giants of the last golden period in the mid 60's. He was one of a handful of artists that made one last push to preserve the intelligence and vitality of rock music, before the video medium overran imagination with crass commercial interests.
Your attention is required throughout this record, not simply because of the lyrical density but also due to the detail that is evident in both production (courtesy of Geoff Emerick) and musicianship. It sounds as if it were a difficult album to make. No blazing ROCK songs are submitted here, though more than a hint of the baroque touches applied to late period Beatles recordings are present. ("And in Every Home" ,with 40 piece orchestra, being the best example)
Every possible attempt is made at giving the listener something interesting to find in the mix. Swirling organ gradually creeps into "Beyond Belief" and does battle with an intricate, almost frantic piano, yet it all adds to the paranoid tension that threatens to snap at any moment. The genius of Steve Nieve at work.
"So in this almost empty gin palace
Through a two-way looking glass
You see your Alice"
Fading before really breaking out of the straightjacket, it is a compelling opener.
"Man Out of Time" is another highlight.
Stretching out in terms of vocal performance, a few new jazzy places are visited ("Shabby Doll", "Kid About it") and he pushes himself on the emotive "Almost Blue". Nods to the past crop up as "Human Hands" reprises the reggae stumble found on "My Aim is True". Similarly, "Little Savage" is cut from the same musical cloth as some of the material on "Armed Forces".
His powers of continuous creativity rarely flag. Though the words remain occasionally brutal, the finger pointing is balanced somewhat. "The Long Honeymoon" reveals how time tests relationships, against a soft backdrop with a brilliantly employed accordion part. Styles are varied, making this an incredibly easy set to digest without restlessness setting in.
By the time you reach the brilliantly orchestrated closer ("Town Cryer") there is a definite feeling of having encountered work that is matched by few contemporary writers. No concepts are detected, although the warmth and conviction that colored projects like "Pet Sounds" is very much in evidence. He wouldn't make another one quite like "Imperial Bedroom".