After recording five albums of original songs with Nick Lowe as producer, Elvis Costello elected to work with Geoff Emerick for 1982’s Imperial Bedroom. Emerick had previously worked with The Beatles, and Imperial Bedroom recalls the layered pop craft of The Beatles’ later 1960s albums. Steve Nieve is also an important architect of the album’s Sound, notably his over the top orchestral arrangement on ‘…And In Every Home’. Costello tried a lot of different musical approaches over the first decade of his career, but this is my favourite fit for him. The detailed approach fits his sophisticated writing, but it’s organic enough not to overwhelm the emotional undertow in his voice.
But Imperial Bedroom also boasts my favourite set of Costello songs – the great production and arrangements do elevate some of the minor material to greatness, but there are plenty of great songs here as well. Opener ‘Beyond Belief’ is verbose and urgent, while ‘A Long Honeymoon’ saunters with its accordion accompaniment. ‘You Little Fool’ uses a harpsichord, while ‘Man Out Of Time’ is the obvious centrepiece with its dramatic introduction, and it feels like a sequel to ‘You’ll Never Be A Man’ from Trust. ‘Pidgin English’ is perhaps a minor song, but the “neurotic erotica” line is one of the album’s most memorable moments.
Imperial Bedroom is Elvis Costello’s finest moment, where his literate, complex songs were given the most befitting treatment.