In celebration of the exhibition coming to the MACBA this month, here’s a selection of album covers which I find to be, in turn, thrilling, sickening and indie-cool-self-affirming.
That is to say, here are the covers of some albums I like and love. Not all of the covers are great works of art, but many are. Royal Trux, being my favourite pop-group, dominate the field somewhat. I’ve always enjoyed their album art, given that it combines a variety of rock clichÃ©s, fan-art, corporate-style logos and blocked toilets.
Elliott Smith’s epnoymous album has an evocative image of bodies ‘falling’ or ‘floating’ between buildings in an American city. The design represents a haunting pre-shadowing of the ‘falling man’ photograph taken on September 11th 2001 in New York City.
The Flaming Lips’ ‘The Soft Bulletin’ album features an awesome photograph taken outside an ‘Acid Test’ party in San Francisco in the late sixties. I love the way it captures a young man’s intoxicaton, no doubt due to some of the acid he’d been testing.
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s ‘Master and Everyone’ has a simple cover photo which needs little explanation: his face, with its idiosyncratic beard fills the sleeve… his eye seems abnormally deep and reflective, as if it’s been ‘photoshopped’.
After these, the Rolling Stones’ explicitly erectile cover for ‘Sticky Fingers’, Basement Jaxx’s homage to Copito de Nieve, the albino gorilla late of Barcelona’s city zoo, Super Furry Animals’ collage of a famous drug dealer’s various passports’ photos and Primal Scream’s stunningly primal ‘Screamadelica’ cover are all firm favourites.
Album art is a special form which combines the necessities of commercial success and hip styling with an interesting glimpse of how the pop-group (or their record label) view the music contained within the packaging. A good album cover should give a clear idea of the feeling and agenda (I wanted to write ‘philosophy’, but that seems too much) that the album espouses. Either that, or it should have nothing to do with anything. An album cover is, therefore, both an advertisement for the product, and a part of the product itself. As to the design included on CDs or vinyl records themselves – and the other design elements in on an album’s packaging, that’s a different matter. But Royal Trux’s highly suggestive hypodermic skyscrapers which feature in one of their EPs, (though I can’t remember which one), represent to me a pinnacle in album art by virtue of their combination of drug imagery and the New York City skyline.
In a brief note which didn’t deserve a whole post: here’s a great article about the most important website in the world. GYAC: it’s Popbitch.