Sometimes it’s really funny when you notice the similarities between the covers of albums that are released at about the same time. Here Buffalo Tom - Three Easy Pieces uncannily mirrors Smashing Pumpkins - Zeitgeist – both comeback albums from veteran bands (it’s been seven years since Billy Corgan’s outfit released an album and nine years since Buffalo Tom’s last).
Three Easy Pieces has a neat example of no-frills retro design for its cover. The grayscale hand on the weathered orange background looks very Fifties, and this is one of the rare instances where the use of Helvetica is justified. It fits both the time frame and the graphic style.
The cover for Zeitgeist is rife with symbolism. The Statue of Liberty overtaken by the waves? The civil rights being drowned? Or more literally global warming causing New York to flood? Who knows?
When looking at both album covers you discover that the hand holding the taped-together microphones oddly resembles the outstretched arm of the Statue of Liberty in the Zeitgeist cover, and this is accentuated by the matching starburst effects in both backgrounds. The band name looks like Alternate Gothic No. Two, and the title is set in LTR Federal.
There’s more symbolism and retro atmosphere to be found in the beautiful collage that is the cover for The Chemical Brothers - We Are The Night. The eyes encrusted in the hands and the star constellations remind me of Tarot cards, WWII magazine design and Dada. The technique is quite similar to the Buffalo Tom cover, but the image is more intricate and in my opinion far more interesting. The Chemical Brothers logo has always looked familiar to me, but I suspect that’s because it somehow makes me think of Ondine. The album title is set in a monospaced sans, and I’m almost 100% sure it’s Arial Monospaced.
:: U P D A T E :: Bart van der Griendt alerted us that the cover reminds him of an existing image. He says that in fact it is almost literally copied from Herbert Bayer’s ‘Thing to come’ (1938). The work is part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and can be admired online on the MoMA website. I wonder if there’s any mention in the CD booklet that credits Bayer’s work.
:: U P D A T E :: Fellow Typophile and Type Identification Board regular Eric Hague successfully identified the Chemical Brothers logo as a slightly customised Sho Roman. I bow my head in shame…
Now that we’ve mentioned Helvetica – the cover for The Enemy - We’ll live and die in these towns is simple and effective. Sometimes all it takes is a good concept, well executed.
The only reason I included Common - Finding Forever is that I honestly can’t decide if this is either an unusual album cover for a rap artist or just a heap of kitsch drivel. It does remind me of these horrible paintings one finds in tourist traps at the Riviera.
For all its implied action, the cover image for Interpol - Our Love To Admire is strangely static, as if it were a museum display. Actually, it might well be one. Shows how much I know. :P As far as the typography goes, it is boring ITC Avant Garde Gothic, although it looks like they hired the people that did the latest Keane album to add that thoughtful, carefully balanced swash on the E. ;)
The Thrills - Teenager has a very Sixties cover, with all the type neatly arranged above a black and white picture. I’ve always had a soft spot for album covers that have superfluous text material like song titles and even credits’n’stuff on the front. Successfully arranging all this additional type is a challenge, and it’s rewarding when it works. The multi-coloured album title in Helvetica Condensed Bold contrasts nicely with the otherwise entirely black and white cover.
To conclude this episode a painting by Robert Del Naja (Massive Attack’s 3D) for UNKLE - War Stories. The deluxe edition comes in gorgeous packaging: a hardback booklet incorporated in the Digipack, and tucked in a slipcase. This 50 page booklet features specially commissioned haunting paintings by the aforementioned Del Naja.
And if you haven’t seen the video yet, check the disturbing and heart-rending (almost literally) clip for the single Burn My Shadow. While you’re at it, check the promos for the album as well. Heck, check all of their videos, they’re worth it.
ARGH! Of course! I had some nagging little voice in the back of my head repeating "Shogun" all the time, but that's a different face altogether. It's not derivative of, it IS Sho Roman. Good one, Eric! :)
30.07.2007 - 21.15.02
Posted by Yves Peters a.k.a. Unzipper
Yves said: One of the rare instances where the use of Helvetica is justified. (Buffalo Tom).
Hope designers will take notice. Using helvetica just because it?s trendy makes me sick.
01.08.2007 - 10.39.49
Posted by Blender
If only more designers would listen to me indeed! :D Seriously, you are right. I've said it before and I'll say it again: you need a _very_ good reason to use Helvetica. If you can logically justify its use, then I can accept it. Both the Buffalo Tom and The Enemy album covers are prime examples of that. For The Thrills album cover I would've used Gothic No. 13 or something like that.