North Central College Chronicle, October 15, 1982

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North Central CollegeChronicle
  • 1982 October 15

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'Imperial Bedroom' should get
Elvis Costello fans out of bed


Andrew Walser

Since 1977, when My Aim is True was released, Elvis Costello has been one of the few consistently good performers of popular music. On Imperial Bedroom, his eighth and latest American lp, Costello blends the best elements of his many musical influences (pop, country and western, jazz, and new wave rock, to name a few) and comes up with his finest record ever.

Although every song on Imperial Bedroom is excellent, a few tracks stand out. "Beyond Belief" opens the record, and what strikes one first is Costello's voice: a versatile, deep tenor, described by one critic as "Dionne Warwick with fangs." Those accustomed to the screechings of Journey, Survivor, and the rest will be surprised by Costello, a man who sings like a man. And his lyrics — "History repeats the old conceits / The glib replies, the same defeats" — make his singing more than aimless technique.

"Man Out of Time" is another highlight. The song tells about an out-of-touch millionaire whose life is falling apart. "He's got a mind like a sewer and a heart like a fridge," Costello sings. "He stands to be insulted and he pays for the privilege." These sarcastic words are sung over some superb playing by Costello's band, the Attractions — especially Steve Nieve, whose piano and organ dominate the album. "Man Out of Time" could give Costello his first hit single, provided the folks at WLS don't tell us once more that "the public isn't ready for this kind of music."

"Loved Ones" is musically the most conventional song on the album and lyrically the most controversial. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Costello called the song a response to the current rock star philosophy of "live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse." Go ahead, the song says, be an alcoholic, be a junkie, self-destruct in the name of eternal youth — just remember that someone who loves you will have to stick around for the funeral. Or, as the refrain puts it, "What will the loved ones say?" That line alone shows why Costello will never be as popular as Jim Morrison or Mimi Hendrix.

The album ends with "Town Crier," in which Costello talks about his bad reputation ("Maybe you don't believe my heart is in the right place / Why don't you take a good look at my face?"), other singers who pose their way into stardom ("They're so teddybear tender and tragically hip"), and his own inability to deal with such problems ("Just a little boy lost in a big man's shirt"). The song is beautiful without being sentimental, and a fitting close to the record.

I could go on for pages about what makes Imperial Bedroom so special. The Beatlesque acoustic guitar solo on "Pidgin English." The sardonic orchestration on "...And in Every Home." The ballad "Almost Blue," which Costello says he wants Frank Sinatra to sing ... I could go on, but I won't. All I will say is that anyone who loves good music should buy Imperial Bedroom and play it over and over again. It gets better each time.

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The NC Chronicle, October 15, 1982


Andrew Walser reviews Imperial Bedroom.

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1982-10-15 North Central College Chronicle page 05 clipping 01.jpg
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1982-10-15 North Central College Chronicle page 05.jpg
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