Judging Albums By Their Covers

Massive Attack: Mezzanine

The mono album cover obsession/examination continues, this time looking at Massive Attack’s Mezzanine. I can’t say I’ve ever been a big fan of the whole ‘trip hop’ scene, but Massive Attack are a whole different animal, as ably demonstrated by the cover to Mezzanine. If listening to the album conjures anything immediately, it’s a creeping menace that builds as the music progresses. The heavy metal beetle on the cover certainly qualifies for the creepy bit, it’s also a brilliant way to express what you can expect from the music. It’s an amazing graphic representation of the juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness, calmness and anxiety, the brooding intensity of the songs. Both graphics and sounds are confrontational, perfectly complimenting each other.

The artwork is a collaboration between designer Tom Hingston, fashion/art photographer Nick Night and Massive Attack band member 3D. Tom Hingston had this to say about the collaboration.

“The band’s collective philosophy was born out of hip-hop and club culture. 3D, a former graffiti artist, was looking for a different way to work. He came up with themes and words applicable to the project, so that designer, photographer and band could push and pull each other in different directions until we were in a place we were all happy with.”

Happy seems an unusual choice of word for such dark and menacing imagery. Like the music though, there’s a lot to discover when looking deeper into the cover. It may not be immediately apparent that the ‘beetle’ is actually an intricate organic/metallic sculptural piece. I also have to mention that this beautiful overall mono colour concept is topped off inside with a plain vibrant orange CD disk. It juxtaposes nicely against the rest of the graphics, a concept I have stolen/borrowed on many occasions for my own work 🙂

Judging Albums By Their Covers


Bruce Springsteen: Born To Run

I’ve been thinking a lot of late about just what are my favourite album cover designs of all time, and while an oredered list of my preferences seems to change daily, one thing that has become apparent id that a lot of my favourite covers are monotone. Just what that says about me, I don’t know, but I thought that over the next couple of weeks I’d discuss some of my favourite ‘monotone’ covers of all time.

First up, Springsteen’s 70’s classic ‘Born To Run’. We’re probably all familiar with the superstardom he reached in the 80’s, but that wasn’t always the case. Up to the release of Born To Run, he had released a couple of albums that had received critical praise, but weren’t doing much on the charts, he had yet to transfer the energy and popularity of his live shows into any significant album sales. This was all about to change though.

With his new album, photographer Eric Meola wanted to capture the character of Springsteen from his concert persona, but not with a traditional live shot. By using a black and white photo and a plain white backdrop, there would be nothing to distract from the figure of Springsteen the performer, the eye would go straight to his movement and shape.

Meola was right on the money, the album cover has gone on to be one of the most iconic images of rock. It’s a beautiful introduction to the music on the album, Springsteen leans on Saxophonist and E-Street band member Clarence Clemens, illustrating how he had come to depend on his bandmates to help him encapsulate the full scope of his songs. The stark black and white photo and a white background of a cheeky grinned Springsteen looking back at Clemens is a perfect accompaniment to the grandeur of the albums lyrics used to describe the seemingly mundane and every day events of his songs protaganists. Ultra thin lettering lets the photo tell it’s story in an elegant understated manner, a type treatment seldom used at the time, but now a design classic.

The album is over 30 years old but still stands the test of time both musically and grapically, certainly benefiiting from the larger canvas of the vinyl album era.