Imperial Bedroom is classic Costello. From the jaded view of love he introduced in his first album My Aim is True, to the soupy sentiment of his 1981 release Almost Blue, Elvis Costello has combined everything in-between to create his finest album yet. Costello explains the immobilizing uncertainty of affairs, marriage and "imitation love" with refreshing new wisdom characteristically laced with Costello cynicism.
Costello doesn't allow anyone to escape his sarcasm, husbands, wives, cheaters, users and lovers are all guilty of either being in love or trying to be out of love.
The first song on side one, "Beyond Belief," sets precedent for the rest of the album. From the opening lines: "History repeats the old conceits / The glib replies / The same defeats," to the final chorus, "I've got a feeling I'm going to get a lot of grief / Once seemed so appealing, now I am beyond belief," the listener is immediately pulled into the undercurrent of disillusionment with love and resignation to relationships turned sour.
From there the album moves to the classic and sacred bedroom argument in "Tears Before Bedtime" with the pouting of "How wrong can I be before I am right," and to the predictable bitch in "Shabby Doll" who is just "Putting him off and putting you on."
Adding to the fine lyrics and melodies, Costello himself has never sounded better. His voice evokes every emotion imaginable from the even crooning in "Almost Blue" to the outrage in "Pidgin English."
Like previous Costello albums, Imperial Bedroom gets better with age. But it is not an album which takes getting used to. From the first time on the turntable, Elvis Costello and the Attractions have convinced us this album is not just a ho-hum interpretation of domestic differences, but is a sometimes complex and always cunning package of songs worth listening to, over and over again.