Judging a Book by its Cover and its Contents
Now, I know that nobody buys music anymore, but if one were to make such an unusual decision, there is much more to buying an album that just receiving a circular piece of plastic with the music “just there” to listen to; many times, there are sheets of paper which contain lyrics, photos, and other pieces of miscellanea which enhance the experience of listening to the songs contained on the album in question. Wow! Sometimes, an album even goes above and beyond these simple industry standards and functions as a piece of art; below are several of my favorite album packages, those which fit the album’s theme or concept and create a memorable and as creative an experience as the music itself.
Jethro Tull-Thick as a Brick: This album is unique in many ways: the entire CD/LP plays out as one long song about the trials and tribulations of life, especially that of a young adolescent, the band features a flautist and is still pretty awesome, and the liner notes consist of a number of fictitious news items, photos, crosswords, and a dot-to-dot of a nude woman (which I see my dad has completed in his copy). The LP version is especially marvelous, as the paper folds out to the same size as that of a real newspaper. At times, I’d rather read this than the “real” news. Oh, the album rules, too.
Torche-Meanderthal: This is one of the most epic things I’ve seen. A fold-out cave scene filled with little Earth creatures meandering around in it. As shown below, the vinyl version came in many different color mixtures; a sight to behold and to hear. Take that, bands which just put pictures of the members on the covers with no lyrics inside!
Tool-Lateralus: This album came packaged in a translucent black slipcase which covered the CD jewel case. In place of where the lyrics/credits booklet usually lays, however, is a series of seemingly-accurate drawings of the human body in its different layers of systems and parts (muscles, nerves, bones, etc.) which, when the booklet is viewed closed, forms a complete skinless body. Also of note is the band’s 10,000 Days album with built-in goggles and gadgets.
Slayer-Seasons in the Abyss 7” Single: This limited edition of the ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ 7” vinyl single came packaged in a clear plastic bag filled with fake (we hope) blood and skulls to float in it. If this isn’t Slayer, i don’t what is. So awesome that you can’t even buy it anywhere anymore!
The Prize Fighter Inferno-My Brother’s Blood Machine: The side project of Coheed and Cambria’s Claudio Sanchez, the Prize Fighter Inferno has released one album thus far. The cover of the CD is a textured dark brown book-like surface. Inside the case, in lieu of a standard (boring) booklet, however, are a series of tarot-like cards which have drawings of different characters, as well as the lyrics and the credits to the album. Somewhat simple when compared to the other albums I’ve mentioned, but still an interesting and unique concept.
Bright Eyes-Cassadaga: Even though I’m not a big Bright Eyes fan, I seem to mention Connor quite a bit these days. When it comes to packaging his albums, Mr. Oberst does quite well. On Lifted, everything was put together like a book; on Wide Awake, an elaborate knit scene featuring a city, trees, and birds was photographed and spread across the album and booklet. For Cassadaga, a spooky and dark album, we have a seemingly plain gray-all-over cover with a black disc and booklet. But wait! There is a cool little decoder included with the album which, when traced across the covers and insides of the package, reveals drawings, notes, and other bits of art ripe for the viewing.
Thrice-the Alchemy Index (4×10” vinyl version): For Thrice’s epic Alchemy Index release, a few pieces of black vinyl shoved into a cardboard sleeve would be insufficient. No, instead, we get four different colors of vinyl (red for Fire, blue for Water, clear for Air, and brown for Earth) packaged inside a hardcover book with both lyrics and notes from the band on what each song means, how it was created, etc.; an epic package for an ambitious set of albums.
The Dead Weather-Blue Blood Blues (12”/7” Single): A few months ago when this single was released, the internet vinyl community was in a collective tizzy over Jack White’s creation of the so-called “triple-decker” record, which was a 7” single packaged inside of a standard 12” LP. One could only get to the inner single by cutting into the outer record. Fear not though, for the external record snaps back together again for repeated enjoyment. Another case of a rare, out-of-print, can’t afford it if you ain’t Jack White himself record, but it’s nice to know someone out there has one of these and isn’t flipping it on eBay for $500.
What other albums are amazing pieces of music, artwork, and packaging? Comment below!