Sorry, We're Closed

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Favorite Album Covers, Part 4

Here are my favorite album covers from the past 20 years or so...

Crashing Dream, Rain Parade, 1985
I always found the cover of Nirvana's Nevermind quite disturbing. I don't particularly need to see a child's penis, OK? But water can make for a fascinating surface through which to view a subject. Here, the members of this underrated LA band are seen at the bottom of a very nice swimming pool. The idea of being drowned in west-coast culture is a central theme to the album.

Recurring, Spacemen 3, 1991
What does it mean? I dunno. But it looks amazing under a black light. Its druggy simplicity perfectly matches the music inside.

Girlfriend, Matthew Sweet, 1991
This album was originally going to be called
Nothing Lasts, but Tuesday Weld (that's her) didn't want her photo to be associated with such a negative title. So it became Girlfriend, which is far more appropriate anyway.

Every Man and Woman is a Star, Ultramarine, 1991
A breezy, surprisingly organic-sounding album of techno, house, and even prog-rock influences,
Every Man could have had a cold, crisp cover like other electronic music of the early 90s. But instead, this Canterbury duo showcased a cornfield under blue skies rather than a cartoony spaceship or computer graphics or some other trite image like most digital acts used at the time. Much of the music here reflects the sounds of camping, hiking, and swimming in nature, making the cover a natural fit.

Love Deluxe, Sade, 1992
Sade's covers have always been immaculately done, which puts some people off. I guess her detractors want to see Ms. Adu in jackboots, or sneezing, or something. But here, she's literally a bronze goddess, frozen in place or cast in metal in a passionate but oddly constricted pose. It's their best album, too.

The Decline and Fall of Heavenly, 1994
This cover image for a nice, but somewhat twee, pop band--albeit one beset ultimately by the tragic suicide of its drummer--is almost too cute for words. Almost. (Sorry about the size of this one.)

Ray of Light, Madonna, 1998
While no expense is ever spared on Madonna's covers, many of the resulting images are just transient, meant only to show off her newest persona. Here, she's wearing clothes and hair that she might be expected to wear on an everyday basis, but the image is interesting enough to keep you looking. Why is she to the left? Why is she dissheveled? The graphics are understated and simple and add rather than detract.

Salt Rain, Susheela Raman, 2001
This is Ms. Raman's first album. While many beauty queens are splashed all over CD covers in close-up, rarely is a woman not "conventionally" beautiful (in a white Anglo-Saxon context, anyway) shot so intimately. Of Indian ancestry and raised in England, she has hair vibrant enough to push the very boundaries of the frame, and in addition she is showing off what is either an un-made-up skin-color variance, a shadow, or a black eye.

American Idiot, Green Day, 2004
Here is one of the few releases on these lists o'mine that features a drawing. A band trying to break out of the punk-pop ghetto and do something they felt was more lasting needed a great cover image, and this is it: a man ready to toss a heart-shaped grenade.

We'll Never Turn Back, Mavis Staples, 2007
As if anyone needed a reminder of the struggles of the civil rights movement...this is a perfectly realized concept, with superb typography that announces but does not overpower the image.

Thanks for come the top five of all.


Blogger Bob Purse said...

Another interesting set. I'm hard pressed to say what my favorite covers of the last 15 years or so have been, since covers are so small these days. And I'll admit up front to having a hard time taking my antipathy for the acts in some cases (Green Day) or my dislike for the music contained (Madonna), and that strongly colors my response to the covers.

Do you find the same thing - that you might like an album cover if it wasn't that it supported an album or an artist that you have a dislike for? That's a hard thing for me to separate.

My favorite here is the Ultramarine, again probably due to the beautiful blue of the sky and the nice nature shot.

Looking forward to the top five. I'm pretty sure I have one of them pegged - an album from 1963 - but perhaps not.

3:12 PM, September 15, 2009

Blogger Stu Shea said...


There are, on this list of 40, at least ten albums which I don't love or don't even like.

You rat!! You guessed my 1963 album! How did you know I was going to pick "Trini Lopez Live at PJ's?!?"

3:19 PM, September 15, 2009

Blogger Amy said...

I'm with Bob on this one - I have a hard time separating the cover from the artist. I know there have been a few album covers that have been catchy, funny, engaging but I can't get past the fact that the vinyl within that sleeve contained crap I wouldn't force on a group I was trying to disperse.

I would rather highlight covers like XTC's Oranges & Lemons (a brilliant replication of the style of Heinz Edelmann worthy of framing and hanging on a wall), or the GoGos "Beauty and the Beat", or the whole genre used by the likes of The Smiths (which I'm sure they stole from the punks) - using B&W anonymous-looking photos of seemingly random faces (I love "Louder than Bombs").
The 80s really were an interesting time for album covers.

12:52 PM, September 28, 2009

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