Saturday, 27 November 2010

Great Album Covers Vol. 1

It has been a while since my last update which is in no small part due to the large workload I currently have to juggle. But that is neither here nor there.

They (the mystical ‘Wizards’ of anonymous rhetoric) say that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover… but what about music? A lot of album covers may not be exactly worthy of the Louvre, but in today’s world it is probably the most widespread artistic format after editorial photography. If you look through your shelves at the CDs and LPs forlornly gathering dust since you bought the latest version of the iWhatever (to host your vast ill gotten assortment of compressed mp3 files), you’ll be confronted with some of the greatest artists of the 20th Century (and even a few from way before).

But I’m not going to do the typical NME (that’s ‘No Music Exists’) Magazine “Top 100” according to what is currently being namedropped by this years fad bands and what needs to be included according to indie mag retro convention.


This is a first in an ongoing series of blogs about the images in my collection of CDs and Vinyl that inspire me. Hope you’re happy with that.

Joy Division - ‘Unknown Pleasures’, 1979
Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ is a startlingly dystopian and bleak album which set the benchmark for all miserable bands that would follow. Ian Curtis’ melancholic lyrics, the icy synthesizers, echoing drums and guitars, and the constant throbbing bass were as subtle and delicate as they were overwhelming and heavy.
A grand, but simple sound is hard to reflect in an aesthetic way. But a simple negative image of the pulses from the first pulsar to be discovered, ‘PSR B1919+21’, does it perfectly.
Credited to Joy Division, Peter Saville and Chris Mathan the image is literally the resonating screams of a dying star echoing throughout space. A sad parallel with the fate of the band’s tragic front man.

Christian Death - ‘Sex And Drugs And Jesus Christ’, 1988

Christian Death under the leadership of Rozz Williams was fuelled by surrealism, drama, and abstract ideas. Under Valor Kand however, the emphasis was switched from mystique to in-your-face blasphemy. As a result, there was a time when the irony of the Christian Death name (chosen by Rozz Williams and Rikk Agnew as a play on Christian Dior) was turned into a battle cry of defiance against fundamentalist '80s America.
‘Sex And Drugs And Jesus Christ’ was not only one of Kand’s finest musical moments, but also his finest visual moment. The image of a junky-thin Jesus Christ with a tourniquet around one arm, and shooting up is one of the most shocking images ever committed to an album cover and caused offence everywhere it was seen.

Rammstein - ‘Live Aus Berlin’, 1999

Love them or hate them you have to admit that Rammstein are the first thing that comes to mind when you mention German Metal. Like Kraftwerk before them, Rammstein have a very strong visual identity and the cover of their first live album/DVD ‘Live Aus Berlin’ is no exception.
The release coincided with the band’s cover of the Depeche Mode song ‘Stripped’, the video for which was created using scenes from the 1936 Berlin Olympics propaganda film ‘Olympia’. The cover of the album/DVD also harks back to the 1930s with the band standing in an expansive columned hallway in sharp suits and gathered around a small radio.
The image is comparable to the modernist look of the cover of ‘The Man Machine’ (1978) by Kraftwerk; The images, even without logos or titles just scream “This is a German band”.

Vol 2, Coming soon...


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