The Best Of Everything But The Girl, by Everything But The Girl
Best of albums have different approaches based on when they happen to appear within the career of the act in which they serve as a retrospective. Some are greatest hits albums that are a bit premature that miss some of the biggest hits because they are released too early in a group’s career. Still others are post-career retrospectives that frequently go over the same ground that others have. This album is a third kind, which is a “catching up with [insert band name here],” the sort of retrospective that introduces an audience to a group that has a somewhat lengthy history of music that is worth paying attention to but which has broken through after some time. If Depeche Mode’s version was the most popular sort of retrospective of this type, this album itself serves as a fitting example of a way that a label seeks to introduce the back catalog of an act that has suddenly increased its profile as a result of a big hit to an audience that is hoped to be appreciative of such efforts. Since this album went platinum in the UK, it can be judged as a success under those standards at least.
In terms of its content, this album is made up of fifteen tracks whose structure is fascinating. The retrospective opens with the hit, the Todd Terry Remix of “Missing,” whose success legitimated the retrospective in the first place and marks the point of entry for the listener. After that comes a Todd Terry remix of “Driving,” a somewhat repetitive but enjoyable enough song that is meant as the single from this particular album (a different and better remix of the same song is included as the thirteenth song of the album). After that comes a couple of songs that show the dated production of the late 80’s and early 90’s but whose reflection on the past demonstrates the consistent concern of EBTG with these matters in “Old Friends” and “One Place.” A trio of excellent covers comes next with “I Don’t Want To Talk About It,” “Love Is Strange,” and “The Only Living Boy In New York” that show the duo as being fit interpreters of the songs of others. After that comes a series of songs that deal with love and relationships that goes back all the way to the early 80’s and that is again filled with good songs, including “Apron Strings,” a chilling song about frustrated maternal longings, “When All’s Well,” “Another Bridge,” “and “Each And Every One.” After that comes another song from the successful Amplified Heart album, “Rollercoaster,” before another “Driving” remix (noted earlier) and two duets between Tracey Thorn and Massive Attack (“Better Things” and “Protection”) close out the tracklist.
One of the intriguing aspects of this particular album is the way that it introduces the listener to the back catalog of the group in a way that puts the dance songs at the beginning and end of the album and then the group’s acoustic music in the middle. Ben Watt’s progress as a producer is apparent here, as his work on later album Walking Wounded would demonstrate the way that he had internalized the EDM done by great skill by Massive Attack shown here. Admittedly, it is possible to have some quibbles, as there are numerous songs that could have been chosen for this retrospective that were not that were easily the best of Everything But The Girl–“I Didn’t Know I Was Looking For Love,” any number of songs from Amplified Heart like “Troubled Mind,” “I Don’t Understand Anything” “25th December” and “We Walk The Same Line,” among them, and another duo between Massive Attack and Tracey Thorn in “Hunter Gets Captured By The Game” from the Batman Forever soundtrack. Still, this is a good album and it does its job of introducing listeners to songs that they may not know having only heard of the group because of the smash success of “Missing.”