I’ve written before about the demise of the Album Era, and how music in general has been devalued in the age of the mp3. I make no bones about it, I’m nostalgic for a time when albums mattered. But my melancholy isn’t strictly about the music. One aspect of this tragic shift that often gets overlooked is the death of album cover art. Does anyone even know what the cover of Adele’s album looks like? I certainly don’t. People just don’t care anymore. We may never again experience the kind iconic album art that’s seared into our collective consciousness (Dark Side of the Moon anyone?). But perhaps more importantly, we’ll never again experience the sublime, ridiculous, head-scratching artwork that adorned many album covers in the 70’s and 80’s. Some of it was truly transcendent in its unmitigated stupidity. For example, in 1981 the American heavy metal band Riot released their 3rd album titled Fire Down Under. This was the cover.
The band’s name and the title of the album are clearly expressed, but beyond that, what the hell am I looking at? Is that a human with an enormous harp seal head standing in front of a forest fire? Unless this is a concept album about campfire safety and the dangers of genetic manipulation, I’m guessing this isn’t what the band envisioned. What it is instead is gloriously awful. A bad idea and even worse execution. I miss that.