“Garden of Earthly Delights” #3
An Album's Design
Many say that, nowadays, an album's cover art/design isn't how it used to be, but I don't care (freaking boomers!). I still see very creative and attractive covers whenever I go hunting for more vinyl. I may not know the artist, but I can recognize the art/design of the album. I'm not going to make any arguments regarding the "quality" of the art/design of albums today, but instead, I will make a list of the albums that not only caught my eye but also made me curious enough to listen to the album. I won't go into complete detail on the origin of the design, but I will give my impressions (both past and present) of the cover. Some of these albums I saw in record stores, and some I found because of 33 1/3, which is a book series. I have created a list of some of the albums that visually spoke to me and told me to give them a listen.
Before this list, I have a quick clarification for my album reviews (Making Reviews for Nigel). The category of “Top 3 songs” lists MY favorite 3 songs of the album, not an unbiased choice of the 3 best songs of the album. With that outta the way, let me commence with the list.
The Flowers of Romance
Public Image Ltd.’s The Flowers of Romance
I found this album while searching for a copy of PiL’s album, Happy? I went to the “P” section of vinyl, saw a PiL section, and looked for Happy?
There was only one album: The Flowers of Romance. The album’s photo intimidated me, but it also attracted me. The woman in the photo looked very unstable, but sexy at the same time. I didn’t purchase the album. Instead, I decided to listen to it on a streaming platform before I bought it.
I went back.
The album was gone.
I was looking through the list of 33 1/3 books that have been published for the series. As I was scrolling through, I made a list by saving the images of the books. One image piqued my interest: Björk’s Homogenic.
The album had the image of a woman (I didn’t know who she was at the time) in this futuristic kimono, with long nails, some golden neck rings, and two massive hair buns. I was frozen from the gaze the woman was giving me. I needed to listen to this album so I immediately searched for Homogenic.
I hit play.
A drum machine, an accordion, and then a bass.
I will never forget the train ride back to the house that day.
Massive Attack’s Mezzanine
Before listening to Massive Attack, I heard DJ Shadow’s Entroducing… and Portishead. While diving into information about this genre of “trip-hop” (I still don’t accept that word as long as Portishead didn’t), I kept seeing Massive Attack being mentioned as the creators of the “trip-hop” scene.
Naturally, I had to listen to the founders of this genre. I looked at their discography: Blue Lines, Protection, Mezzanine.
That beetle cover gave me two vibes: dark and bad*ss.
I listened to Mezzanine first before Blue Lines. I had to confirm the vibes I was getting from the cover so I listened to the album on repeat all day.
Lou Reed’s Transformer
I remember seeing this album when I went to go buy The Velvet Underground & Nico. When I picked a copy of the Velvet’s debut, behind it was this black album with dirty gold.
There was a picture of a man who looked a bit like Frankenstein’s monster. It read “Loud Reed – Transformer” on the dirty gold above the picture. I knew who Lou Reed was (obviously), but I didn’t know how he looked. I didn’t bother listening to Transformer, but that black and white photo of that guy – monster – left an impression on me.
When I would return to the store, I would always check to see if the album was still there in stock. It was and I would just stare at the photo. I never bought the album. It would be about two or three months until I listened to Transformer (thanks to the 33 1/3 series). After my listen, I finally found out who was on the cover.
The man himself.
My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless
I had just bought Psychocandy and updated the recent vinyl purchase on my SC story (if you know you know). My former U.S. government teacher (with whom I still stay in touch) responded to my story.
He was surprised I was a Jesus and Mary Chain fan, and he asked if I heard of My Bloody Valentine. I told him that I hadn’t seen that movie yet, and he laughed.
He told me its a band and that their music is like the Jesus and Mary Chain. I told him I would check them out.
I lied (sorry sir).
Fast forward a year to me looking for Ministry records. There weren’t any, but I saw this bright, psychedelic red and fuchsia album. I stared at the front cover trying to decipher what was on this album. It looked like a fuzzy and distorted guitar. I looked at the bottom and I saw a familiar name: My Bloody Valentine.
I wanted to buy this album right then and there, but not for $60. I left to go listen to that mysterious and attractive album. I went into my temporary room and searched for My Bloody Valentine. Later, I found the album, Loveless.
Dead Can Dance
Dead Can Dance’s Dead Can Dance
While I was listening to “Wax And Wane” by the Cocteau Twins, I meant to play the song on repeat but I accidentally pressed create station instead. I wasn’t aware that I didn’t press repeat, so when the song faded out, I was expecting to hear it again. Instead, I heard a mix of guitars and some chanting.
I was spooked so I checked my phone. This black and white mask stared back at me, looking into my soul. I was mesmerized. Something about the mask piqued my curiosity.
The song was “Ocean” by Dead Can Dance from the album of the same name. I immediately went to the album and listened.
I listened to Dead Can Dance’s entire discography in two days. It was the mask on the cover that helped me discover Dead Can Dance and their neoclassical darkwave.
The Sky's Gone Out
Bauhaus’ The Sky’s Gone Out
Believe it or not, there was a time when I didn’t know anything about Bauhaus. I’ve heard the name but I didn’t know their music. That changed when I was looking at the 2018 Black Friday RSD list.
There was this album of a guy holding a vinyl disc covering his face. It was Press the Eject and Give Me the Tape by Bauhaus. It looked cool so I clicked on the record. It was a live album. No thanks. It’s not A Live One.
Before I clicked away, I saw that there were other Bauhaus records being reissued. There was one that captured my attention. It was a black record with this messy, ghostly white outline that formed what appeared to be an eye.
The Sky’s Gone Out.
I loved the image and how the title gave me a different perspective of the album (now it looked like an eclipse). The hypnotic image forced me to finally listen to the Bauhaus.
After listening to the album it became one of my favorites. Its my favorite Bauhaus album to this day.
Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
Brian Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
I listened to The Sky’s Gone Out for five days on repeat and I still couldn’t figure out the lyrics to “Third Uncle.” I had enough of singing gibberish so I looked up the song “Third Uncle” by Bauhaus. The results gave me the lyrics to “Third Uncle,” but the credit for the song was to a man named Brian Eno.
I knew Brian Eno thanks to Roxy Music, David Bowie, Talking Heads, and Ambient 1: Music for Airports. I didn’t know he sang.
I clicked on the Eno album that featured “Third Uncle”: Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). The cover looked like artsy CGI photos of Brian Eno. It was weird enough to make me listen to the album.
The Holy Bible
Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible
The 33 1/3 series announced four new books to be released in the Spring of 2019: two were of albums I had no interest in, one was of the Shangri-Las, and the last one was very alarming to my eyes.
I saw what looked like an obese woman judging herself in the mirror and that image was cemented into my mind. The album was called The Holy Bible, so I was even more interested in the album.
After I listened to The Holy Bible, I was shocked by the dark and honest lyrics. Alcoholism, self-harm, anorexia nervosa, depression, and death were themes scattered throughout the album’s lyrics. I would later learn about Richey Edwards and his struggles.
The album’s cover was a preview of how Richey intertwined his struggles with his lyrics on this morbid album.
Beat Happening’s Beat Happening
Once again I was looking at the list of 33 1/3 books and I saw this very peculiar album that was after the Super Mario Bros. soundtrack. The album was called Beat Happening by the band Beat Happening.
I looked up the album to get a better look at the cover. It was this innocent drawing of a cat riding on a rocket. It was so simple and honest that I had to take a listen.
My ears were not prepared for the low, honest quality of the music. Very simplistic instrumentation and lyrics; simplistic like the cover. I appreciated Beat Happening and would come to recognize Beat Happening’s influence on the early indie scene.
Trout Mask Replica
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band’s Trout Mask Replica
I saw this image as a 33 1/3 book. What the what? This was an album? It looked like the cover was a complete artsy troll. I couldn’t take the image seriously (I couldn’t comprehend its genius at the time).
I wanted to listen because I was so curious what sounds I would hear, but I just couldn’t let myself give in to the ridiculous cover. I tried to get that trout mask-wearing man out of my head.
A week later I would see the album again, but this time on YouTube. It was a review of the album by a busy music nerd (or is it melon?). If this man – this melon- had the time to review this ridiculous album, then I need to listen too.
I searched for the album on Apple Music. Nope. Spotify? Nope. D*mn it. I tried YouTube and I found it: Trout Mask Replica. I clicked on the video containing the entire album. The first song was called “Frownland.” I was five seconds in and I already had a reaction:
WHAT THE F*#K!
Don't Tell a Soul
The Replacements’ Don’t Tell a Soul
I knew Let It Be was a 33 1/3 book, but I wanted to look at the rest of the Replacements’ discography to see what else they released. I searched for their discography and one album stood out to me: Don’t Tell a Soul.
I was completely transfixed to the gaze from the album’s photo. The image of the man using his finger to shush me from telling anyone about this album told me I needed to listen to this album. This cover had complete control over me. I couldn’t believe the serene atmosphere emitting from the image.
Don’t Tell a Soul.
It was genius in my eyes.
The title sounded cool and calm. Before I even listened to the album, I saw my Dad had already added a song to the library: “Achin’ To Be.” Of course, he knew about this album before me.
Oh yes. YES! This was going to be one of my favorite albums ever.
"Garden of Earthly Delights" #3
Those were just a couple of the albums that I discovered thanks to the cover art/design. Expect to see two upcoming reviews for the last two months of 2019. One of the reviews will be on memes; the other will be like the previous reviews I have done. One album is going to be “fast ‘n’ bulbous” (HINT HINT). The second album will take more time from me to complete. So, have some patience for the review. In the meantime, let me “dream of sheep” (HINT HINT).