There exists an idea of what denotes a “good” cover, that is basically of list of things like: know your audience, make the name of the band clear, give it “Lust” factor (a term ripped straight out of 90s male-corporate jargon) etc.
These rules have persisted throughout the history of recorded music and have changed a lot, a quick (and excellent) explanation of which can be found here.
However in a time where music isn’t really bought and sold as much as it’s consumed, I think the album cover as a convention of a band’s aesthetic is more important than ever. Since after all, if you have a seemingly endless stream of music from which to choose from; you’re going to go for the wackiest, shiniest and prettiest.
This brings me onto to the genre of post punk, which in modern day terms means absolutely every-fucking-thing coming out of London.
Back in the Seventies and Eighties, it was a short-hand for anything that tried to keep little bits from the mongrel genre of punk, to make either kitschy, eccentric hits or dark, listless resonances.
This genre of whatever-you-want-as-long-as-it-starts-with-punk had a look; and this about sums it up:
Of course, I don’t need to lecture you on what post punk is. I’m not your dad.
But it’s interesting how little the aesthetic has changed since these days, especially when you look at post punk covers now:
It’s all still there: the colourful group shot , the grayscale imagery, the stark fonts, the formless paintings, the black ink scrawl and the obligatory out of context historical photo.
Now, if I was a large hardback book from the Tate on the coffee table of your nearest hipster barbers (called something like Peaky Barbers or Hendricks’ Gentleman Barbers) I’d be telling you that all these images share an artistic mode, because they are direct descendants of one another.
But musically things have changed, and though the visual language has become the norm; the only thing that links the new bands are the fact that the Guardian describes them as dark, heavy, quirky, and post punk.
I think this is for two reasons, first being that anything loud or thematically (or sonically) dark will be counted as post-punk (especially if you’re a mainstream music journalist), and secondly the legacy of the early days of the genre is something to be admired.
After all, what band wouldn’t want to be called the new Talking Heads?
So bands don’t openly get offended when someone gives them this label, because it’s rarely a far-off assumption and it’s never an insult. At worst, they’d probably just think it’s a sign the journalist has no idea what they’re talking about.
This is where the concept of what I’m calling “post punk strangeness” comes in, because the one thing that seems to be ubiquitous among all these bands is their out-of-left-field aesthetic, whether it’s musical, visual or performative.
No band captures this authentic wackiness like the Canadian collective known as Crack Cloud. Who just absolutely nail it with these covers:
Everything notable about the band you can foresee in the covers: the craziness of the vocals, the denseness of the sound, the direct post punk influence and the originality of their premise. It’s entirely nostalgic and completely novel at exactly the same time, much like the band themselves.
In face the most post punk thing about the band, is that they aren’t even mostly a band; they’re a c o l l e c t i v e.
Dave Simpson writing for the Guardian, noted how they’re post-punk pedigree isn’t coming from a place of pretentiousness, but just an earnest desire to help cure addiction and mental illness with music.
“Their work in low-barrier care (care services that try to be as accessible to users as possible) and overdose prevention is as much a part of their operation as the band” he writes.
This to me is entirely punk, and shows a group of people who are committed to the enfranchisement for the disenfranchised nature of that genre. After all, the punk aesthetic has roots in what was considered disturbing and undesirable in the seventies, and then giving that value as a form of protest.
Crack Cloud stand up together for this common goal, and you can see it in their new cover for the upcoming album: Pain Olympics. Though the title references a shock-video from the early 2000s that should be destroyed forever, the image shows the group stood lit-like-superheroes against the decaying urban sprawl.
I think Crack Cloud are a holy trinity of good aesthetic, great concept and excellent music; and could end up being one of the top bands of their genre (whatever that is?!) in this new decade.