4- The Aggressively Half-Ass Route
With so many ways to go wrong, it's not surprising that bands often err on the side of simplicity. You can't have a woman crapping on your cover whilst holding her shoe if you never take that photo, in other words. Take the Beatles' "White Album" for example: classy, bold, clean, iconic, the inherent message being "the music speaks for itself." But tread lightly, as it's only a hop, skip, and a jump from "Subtle and Classic" to "Put your hands up and step away from the glue stick":
I know what your'e thinking: those aren't even attempts at the delicate, Rothkoesque simplicity of the "White Album," to which I'd say, yes, that's true. But they certainly took more time to design. It's like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich: sometimes less is more. Once you start adding apple slices and honey and toenail clippings, you're left with something inedible. Less, in other words, can be more.
5- The Patently Disturbing Route
Also known as the "Purposefully Controversial Route," our fifth cover art strategy has enjoyed wide and storied success. The Black Crowes "Amorica" and Two Live Crew's "As Nasty As They Wanna Be," with their exposed pubic hair and shimmery buttockseseses, were transparent attempts to spark controversy, thereby sparking interest, thereby selling records, and in both cases, it worked. Further, the entire genre of metal cover art is predicated on this idea, much to the pleasure of millions of teenage boys and Scandinavians; our producer Tom gave Dave an album called "Leprosy" by a band called "Death," for example, though it could have been an album called "Death" by a band called "Leprosy." A Mobius Strip of dorkdom, indeed.
And, naturally, sometimes this approach can go oh so wrong:
See, there's a difference between fighting censorship and giving me pigmask nightmares. I say "fighting censorship" because that's ostensibly what the Black Crowes and Two Live Crew did, albeit with hirsute genitals and sophomoric raunch. If you're going to shock somebody, it's important that there's a purpose. It's the difference betweem Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hostel: both are disturbing, but one is an atmospheric classic while the other is porn for sadists. Another route best avoided.
6- The Man Rides Giant Rat Route
Admittedly, this is a small genre, without a reputable album to hold up as a guide. But I'll be Goddamned if I wasn't going to include Swamp Dogg.
7- The Fucking Awesome Route
Which brings us, in the end, to the answer. In the same way you don't make music by talking about who you want to sound like, you don't make a cover by mimicry. Granted, the Best And Greatest Album Of All Time (tm), London Calling, is a parody of an old Elvis Presley cover, but again, that's the exception to the rule. When we're writing songs, there's always a moment when, after playing a song well for the first time, the notes still decaying, we look at each other and just grin. Sometimes, you just know it's "right." So, while we we've learned we can't simply rip off the following examples of brain-boggling luminosity, I think they speak for themselves:
I imagine the graphic designer finishing the colored marker touchup on Metal Magic, pushing his rolling chair back a few inches from his desk, and thinking, not unlike Dr. Frankenstein, mad with brilliance and dedication, "I've done it. I have created a masterpiece." When it all boils down, all you can wait for is that moment. You have to keep trying, keep plugging away, and, in the end, you'll know. If it doesn't feel right, well, it isn't.
So, without further ado, I'll unveil here, for the first time, the cover art for the brand new Birdmonster album. When it appeared in my inbox early this week, I recall having a "Eureka" moment, knowing, inherently, that we had exactly what we needed, and knowing that no image could possibly convey the artistic statement we are making any better than this:
See, the new Birdmonster album is a lot like a merman on a skateboard. It's mythical, yet earthy. It's experimental, yet American. It's a merman. On a skateboard.
Thematically, it works too. Peter's lyrics have been dominated by aerobics for the past year, notably his use of badminton imagery, which you'll find most striking on "Don't Shuttlecock a Shuttlecocker" and "Put Down That Racket So We Can Skateboard Like Mermen."
I hope you guys like it.
p.s. I'd like to send a big "Godspeed" to Bizarre Records dot com, without whom, several of these brilliant covers would never have been discovered. Like Swamp Dogg. I love you Swamp Dogg.