Everything But The Girl is a group that has always been a bit of an enigma to me. I have never heard any of their albums, but I consistently run into one of their songs on the odd movie soundtrack or occasional visit to the record store. I am always struck by how different one song sounds from the next, much like the brilliant work of Blur, and I assumed that this was because most of the songs that I have heard are B-sides, or as I stated before, tracks that were donated to compilations or soundtracks. This disc has …eally helped me to pull my view of EBTG into focus. Surprisingly, my initial beliefs are correct… they are in fact a group whose sound is that they have no sound.
Now, that’s not entirely fair of me to say. After all, Tracey Thorn’s voice is unmistakable. That is a sound in itself, much like fellow songstress Natalie Merchant. However, this career-spanning collection of videos (nine in all) really shows how the group has evolved, from jazz to folk to pop to dancehall tunes. Personally, the newest stuff is by far my favorite. While the video for the Simon and Garfunkel cover “The Only Living Boy in New York” is fantastic (as is the song), it’s the inclusion of the electronic tracks that really get me interested in this band.
While the videos are good, the live tracks are even better. There are three performances here in all, taken from a show recorded in 1999. My personal favorite, “Before Today”, kicks off the show. Many people feel that electronic music is dull and lacks real emotion, but this segment really shows how great it can be in a live setting. Kudos to the band for being willing to risk something new for the sake of artistic merit.
Finally, there are three demo tracks included, accompanied by a slide show of photos from EBTG’s personal collection. This might be an interesting bit for true fans of this group, but it was a little too dull for my tastes.
For a collection of videos, I feel that Dolby Digital 2.0 is an entirely appropriate audio format. Apparently, Warner Brothers agrees with me, because that is exactly what is used here. Vocals are crisp and clear, which is fantastic, given Thorn’s amazing voice. While this track is unquestionably missing some sharpness on the high end, the bass notes are the ones that really steal the show. There is a ton of bass here, and it is deep and clear. I was very impressed by the clarity of the low end, and shocked about what I was able to rattle in my living room. My cat, on the other hand, was none too pleased. If you are looking for a way to annoy your neighbors, this is it.
Unfortunately, the video is not quite as dynamic as the audio. Having said that, I am not completely upset by the video presentation, either. One of the interesting things about music videos is the fact that the style of the piece affords directors the luxury of being able to utilize different video techniques that they can not typically take advantage of in a normal setting. As a result, much of the video quality on this disc is purposefully grainy, distorted and over-exposed. This is certainly not reference-quality video, but then again, it is not meant to be. There is, however, some edge distortion that was certainly unintentional, and the live performance segment is not extremely well lit. As a whole, though, viewers should just take this for what it is. While there are some great visuals in these videos, this disc is really all about the music.
The only genuine special feature here is the inclusion of an interactive video mix segment. This bit consists of a re-mixed track with four different video streams that the viewer can choose from with the aid of the angle button their remote. This is a nice idea, but the fun wears thin before the song ends. Nothing more is included.
On the whole, I was pleased with this disc. It’s nice to finally be able to put some images to the random collection of songs that I have had wondering around in my head for so long. While this is not a musical group for everyone, there is no denying the fact that their unique songs and inventive approaches to various musical styles are quite commendable. This collection of videos shows that they try to take this same artistic approach into other mediums as well. Serious fans will love this disc, and casual listeners will most likely find some tracks that they enjoy as well.
Special Features List
- Interactive Video Mix