Elvis Costello

Extreme Honey: The Very Best of the Warner Bros. Years

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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

For anyone who didn't follow the many paths Costello treaded during the '90s, Extreme Honey: The Very Best of Warner Brothers Years is a good way to become acquainted with the strangest portion of his career. Like the Warner years themselves, Extreme Honey is flawed, suffering from the same idiosyncratic compiling method as Girls! Girls! Girls! There are a number of hits and singles, to be sure ("Veronica," "So Like Candy," "Sulky Girl," "13 Steps Lead Down," "The Other Side of Summer"), but the bulk of the album consists of album tracks. This isn't necessarily bad, since many of Costello's best songs weren't singles, but the problem is, Extreme Honey doesn't necessarily contain his best songs from the era. There are a number of great moments here, whether it's the lilting "The Birds Will Still Be Singing" from the underrated Juliet Letters or the New Orleans-inflected "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror," but the forced cacophony of "Hurry Down Doomsday (The Bugs Are Taking Over)" merely indicates how he was prone to excess during this era. And that leaves Extreme Honey in a weird position -- it accurately conveys the spirit of Costello's Warner recordings, but it only has a portion of his best work from those albums. Nevertheless, the fact that it captures the feeling of Costello's '90s recordings makes it a worthwhile sampler for the curious who don't want to delve into the actual albums. [In order to entice collectors and die-hard fans, Extreme Honey contains "My Dark Life," Costello's collaboration with Brian Eno originally on The X-Files soundtrack, and the new track "The Bridge I Burned," a neo-psychedelic/trip-hop number constructed from backing tapes recorded with his son and Supergrass drummer Danny Goffey once Prince denied him the permission to alter the lyrics to "Pop Life."]

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