This here is an object lesson in how to anthologise an artist in a single DVD. Elvis Costello's clip collection is sub-subtitled The Videos 1978-1994, and the main course comprises 27 tracks that are largely radio-friendly crowd-pleasers. And nothing wrong with that.
Just over half date from his first six albums, more or less the point where Costello and the Attractions ceased to trouble the singles chart on any sort of regular basis. Thereafter only the most devoted Costello-watcher would argue that the quality slips a little here. A few gems follow on - the horn-driven Let Them All Talk, a pained reading of Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, the later return to the stripped-down Attractions of Sulky Girl and 13 Steps Step Down. The balance feels about right.
Looking at the early Elvis Costello clips now, one is struck by how much he looks like a cross between Sleeper-era Woody Allen and Dennis Pennis (though the latter had yet to be invented). (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea, Pump It Up and Radio Radio all use the same simple studio set - four musicans giving it loads of New Wave attitude in front of a white background. On the accompanying commentary (El will make self-deprecating remarks through the entire collection, should the viewer choose), he remarks on how these clips marked the first time he realised he had "double-jointed ankles". Very weird to look at.
In truth, as with so many musicians of a less sophisticated promo video age, Elvis is a little awkward miming in close up for the cameras - bemused, angry, intent - that's about his full range. Then again I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down does include probably the best chip-eating sequence on a pop video. If today's pop song/video combo can raise a chicken/egg conundrum, there's no doubting the quality of the material here. Oliver's Army remains a great pop song (and a commercial peak), and New Amsterdam and Clubland were always deserving of a wider audience. Strange to think now of the shock and horror that greeted El's Nashville album Almost Blue in the mid-80s (Sweet Dreams and Good Year For the Roses are included), but musical attitudes have changed and country's no longer a dirty word.
Elvis Costello's career in the missing years during and after The Right Spectacle clips may have encompassed string quartets and jazz piano, Burt Bacharach and all, but what's here is the bare bones, great songwriting, funny clips of extras with big hair and band members with bad shirts. A Man Out of Time, indeed.
As for the DVD extras, they're the icing on the cake. The viewer is rewarded with a treasure trove of rare TV performances from home - So It Goes, Revolver and The Tube - and abroad (Dutch and Swedish oddities). All future music DVD anthologies should be judged alongside this one.