Monday, March 7, 2011

...getting to Crass, album art

Ah, vinyl... 

In the process of minimalizing my life, I've given up collecting some things, and one of the casualties has been vinyl records, and even CDs.  Besides, the trick's to get things for free, and opportunities are a-plenty online.

However, I particularly miss the art of the album.  It can be nicely done for CDs, which can include booklets etc, but it has the boldest expression when done for vinyl records. 

Some album cover art was enough to buy the record.  Matched with great music, the album became legendary. 
Bitches Brew, 1970.
Live, 1971.
Evil, 1972.
No doubt, some people will think of Mati Klarwein's art for Miles Davis' Bitches Brew and Live-Evil.

Sometimes, it was a nice surprise to get a poster or some kind of insert. 
One of my favorites is a small one of this photo, H.R. stage diving.  It was included in Bad Brains' album I Against I (SST Records, 1986).  SST put out some great stuff, although its management sucked.  It started with Black Flag whose albums were often illustrated by Raymond Pettibon, and its discography includes some of my faves: Minutemen, Husker Du, Sonic Youth, Bad Brains, Opal, Dinosaur Jr, Negativland...Saccharine Trust and Descendents were ok for a while.  I don't know if punk is dead, has been dead, etc, but you youngsters should understand that punk isn't Green Day or whatever other newfangled crap, and that it's not only heteroclite but also rather heterogeneous.  Well, maybe it's all punk, and whether it's punk, post-punk, and beyond, there's good and bad shit.  But whatever moves ya...

Some albums had a nice feel to them.  I remember this about some of those put out by Dischord Records, notably the ones of Fugazi.  There was a good heft to the sleeve and the vinyl record, they were made in France.  Yeah, I liked Fugazi, good band.  And btw, Jawbreaker sucks haha. 

One gem was Kendra Smith's The Guild of Temporal Adventurers 10" (Fiasco, 1992).  I really liked the fold-out sleeve design.  The sleeve came in a choice of black or white.  The music itself is very nice, includes a cover of Can's 'She Brings the Rain.'  Also, check out her previous band Opal, which would become Mazzy Star when Hope Sandoval replaced Smith as the singer. 

f# a# oo, 1997.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor has some of the more interesting album concepts and designs.  Above links to discography etc. 

The Feeding of the 5000, 1978.
Christ - The Album, 1982.
Of course, the master of album art and also information overload is Crass.  There were all sorts of generous goodies packed sometimes in Crass' albums, whether or not you liked the music and its reactionary asshole haha.  Crass' DIY style, though peerless, has been imitated and should be imitated.  Crass makes Laibach and Neue Slowenische Kunst seem like stingy propagandists. 
Bloody Revolutions, 1980.
Gee Vaucher's graphic artworks were indispensable to Crass' output.  Her works may give some ideas to John Heartfield, and precedes the likes of Sue Coe and Banksy.  Sandow Birk's art seems humorlessly derivative compared to Vaucher's, and less serious.  Above, her detournement of the Sex Pistols.
Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, 1762.  Engraving.
First Stage of Cruelty, 1751.  Etching and engraving.
One is also reminded of William Hogarth's socio-political satires.  He was an early animal rights activist of sorts.

Get this book, Crass Art and other Pre Post-Modernist Monsters (AK Press, 1999).  Unfortunately, it's out of print, but where there's a will, there's a way. 
Also, Animal Rites (Exitstencil Press, 2004), from the press founded by Vaucher and Penny Rimbaud.

And perhaps make the exception to the rule, and get Crass' albums remastered and rereleased as the Crassical Collection.  New artworks by Vaucher and booklets, it's a good deal, you bourgsy fuck! )))