Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Great Album Covers Vol. 3

It is the first blog of 2011! What better way to kick off a new year and a new decade than the third installment of my "Great Album Covers" series. If you want to suggest any album covers for me to feature feel free to leave a comment. Try and keep suggestions in the spirit of the previous posts though.

Bauhaus - 'In The Flat Field', 1980
Bauhaus' debut was pretty much panned by every single music magazine in the UK upon it's release. But their previous four singles ['Bela Lugosi's Dead', 'Dark Entries', 'Terror Couple Kill Colonel' and 'Telegram Sam'] had built them a solid fan base in the scene that was to become known as Goth.
Bauhaus' minimal formula of driving bass-lines, relentless drum beats and screeching guitars coupled with Peter Murphy's baritone voice and often surreal lyrics became the blueprint for all the Goth bands that would follow.
The cover of their eponymous debut is probably their best visual depiction of their sound. The sleek and stylish black and white and bold font (with no title... just the band name) is simplistic and striking. However, at the heart is a impressionistic, blurred photograph that imitates a classical or renaissance nude. The photograph titled “Homage To Puvis De Chavannes” (1978) is by the American photographer Duane Michals. The title is a reference to the influential 19th Century French painter and founder of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts Pierre Puvis De Chavannes. Michals, a prolific commercial photographer working for the likes of Vogue and Esquire. His artistic photography on the other hand often explored homosexuality and homoeroticism from a spiritual point of view.

Dalis Car - 'The Waking Hour', 1984
Another group involving Peter Murphey, this time in partnership with former Japan Bassist Mick Karn, who sadly died earlier this month after a long battle with cancer. Again this is an album that was much maligned upon its release. Unfortunately its avant garde style of bass and keyboard driven surreal pop was a commercial flop, but it has since come back into its own thanks mainly to rabid collectors of Bauhaus and Japan material.
The album is surreal and peaceful and the cover image, a detail from "Daybreak" (1922) by Maxfield Parrish, is suitably apt. The soft but colourful depiction of two feminine figures cast against the 'dynamic symmetry' of the composition could have been taken straight from the pages of Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Parrish considered this to be his "great work" and it is one of the 20th century’s most popular art prints that, according to The National Museum of American Illustration continues to outsell the likes of Andy Warhol’s "Campbell’s Soup Can" and eve Da Vinci's "The Last Supper". The original painting was bought at auction by actor Mel Gibson's wife Robyn in 2006 for the sum of $76 million.

Covenant - 'Northern Light', 2002
Sweden's Covenant have been a shining light in electronic music for nearly twenty years. Though their album art can sometimes be accused of being a little bland - choosing modern graphic design over photography and paintings - but when they do put effort into the packaging it definitely pays off.
2002's 'Northern Light' was one such instance. Another album that seems to divide critics and fans, it gets mixed reviews. But the photograph by Kaskara adorning its cover - depicting a rear view of a lone male figure sat on a chair in the mountains who has apparently frozen to death - is very striking and even a little disturbing as it invites the viewer to fill in the details of his back story.
The image is both beautiful and sombre, and bares comparison to the work of Storm Thorgerson on the Pink Floyd albums 'A Momentary Lapse Of Reason' (1987) and 'Delicate Sound Of Thunder' (1988) which again are somewhat abstract in their composition but equally fascinating at inviting the viewer into the story of the pictures.

Vol 4, Coming soon...


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