ALBUM ART COVERS THAT HOLD CRYPTIC BACK STORIES
This is an article “Album Art Covers That Hold Cryptic Back Stories” by Marc Primo Warren
If music is the ultimate gift, then album art covers are the gift wrapping it deserves. While most covers go with the simple artist profile look, it’s quite mysterious how a few can grab your attention with one look and make you think, even without knowing anything about the artist or his music. Soon, when you’ve investigated the logic behind the art, you somehow feel closer to the artist and understand how he crafts his music.
Throughout the history of music, many album covers have captivated fans and artists alike with their back stories and intriguing visuals. For most, an album cover becomes as significant as the music with how they present more intimate details about the artist or his creative process.
Here are some of the most cryptic album covers from the music industry, to name a few.
Kid A (2000) Radiohead
At the turn of the new millennium, Radiohead introduced and paved the way for a type of alternative-punk-progressive sound that redefined the rock genre. Their cover art for their fourth album likewise shares that experimentation with designer Stanley Donwood using knives and sticks to paint a visual that suggests what he calls the “landscapes of power”.
From the music to its artwork, Kid A was an ambitious project that attempted to go beyond the limitations of known art and music, with both paying off very well for Radiohead.
Elephant (2003) The White Stripes
Perhaps as mysterious as how they led the public to see their true relationship when they first burst into the scene, The White Stripes’ fourth release entitled Elephant presents the “brother-sister” folk-punk tandem sitting on an amplifier with loud reds and whites screaming at the viewer.
While perfectly attention-grabbing, frontman Jack White reveals that the image depicts the duo as elephant ears with the cricket bat he’s holding representing a tusk. Or at least that’s what he sees. No matter how much you squint your eyes, not even a vague shape of a humongous creature is really visible on the cover. What most fans accepted, though, is how huge (as a tusked mammal) that particular White Stripes album became, which led them to believe that there was indeed an elephant in the room (or album cover for that matter).
X&Y (2005) Coldplay
At first look, you’d think that Coldplay’s album art for their third offering X&Y is either one of Google’s logo rejects or a Lego made by a two-year old. Upon closer inspection, you’ll soon discover how it perfectly represents the dreamy tracks inside its covers as spelled in Baudot Code—an ancient French telegraph system which has now been used widely with the more popular Morse Code.
Arguably, Coldplay’s French influences can somehow be heard on the album as well with hints of film noir stylings in tracks like “Fix You” and “The Hardest Part”.
Neon Bible (2007) Arcade Fire
Eye tricks and illusions are also common in album covers with the likes of Guns N Roses’ Use Your Illusion I and II or Def Leppard’s Retroactive keeping us busy in spotting hidden images. Arcade Fire on the other hand, takes on a different approach, along with cover artist Tracy Maurice in their second release Neon Bible wherein the outlines of an electric bible are colored in flipping neon lights that were shot midway so that its pages would look like they are in motion.
The effect was a premeditated effort to make a six-foot art installation (which the band used for their concerts) into a cover art. And the artwork does complement the tracks inside of the album as well, as Arcade Fire recorded most of the songs inside a Quebec Church which the band bought and converted into a studio.