No, you did not just see the latest work courtesy of the Cream's in-house photoshop artiste, D. Ricky Rodriguez. The image above that just made you lose your lunch is indeed the real album artwork for Soundgarden’s forthcoming release, Telephantasm. Unlike the misplaced irony behind the cover for Weezer’s next strike against their own dwindling legacy, Hurley, it appears as though Soundgarden approved such a design in earnest. I mean, nothing says a band’s for real like a wise, stern K-9. It seriously looks like a band-sponsored fan club contest to design the telephantasmic cover resulted in a 10-way tie — a problem they solved by using morphing software to hybridize the winning entries, resulting in an image that looks like White Fang meets Goodnight Moon meets The Road Warrior meets your Mammaw’s moon wolf shirt.
It’s bad. Like, hilariously bad. But let’s put things into perspective: Consistent with their musical legacy, Soundgarden’s trespasses in the arena of visual aesthetics don’t even graze the tip iceberg of those of their followers. While it’s easy for cynics like me to see Soundgarden as a cock-rock band disguised as an alterna-prog band disguised as grunge band with a shitty name, when judging them in comparison to alt-rock followers like Godsmack, they are Led Fucking Zeppelin. They’re a pretty a good group that just has some shitty elements, the shittiest of which are the most easily imitable — chest-beating aggression, a penchant for shirtless-ness, nebulous lyrics, and the painstaking over-enunciation of vowels soft and hard. While Telephantasm’s album art is almost as bad as its name, check out how its aesthetic deficiency pales in comparison to many of the 2010 releases of some lesser-lauded hard-rock and grunge run-off outfits under the umbrella of their influence.
As you’ll see, while Limp Bizkit can’t match Chris Cornell & Co. when it comes to writing a rock radio hit in an odd time signature, they’ve got ‘em cold when it comes stamping a long-player with a cover image that’s more stomach-churning to look at than the Animal Wrongness section of Rotten.com.
I’m guessing Bullet For My Valentine settled on calling their 2010 release Fever after its working title, Smell the Claw, was vetoed. Is this image supposed to convey conflicting themes of beauty and monstrosity? Or, was this just how their label went about censoring the nipple the band originally intended to show their 13 year-old fans who’ve never seen one before?
I’m pretty sure gold is something this album won’t be going. I’m so pissed that my name is attached to this one. Seriously, I’d rather my name be Chocolate Starfish than anything associated with this soul-depleting emblem of has-been-edness. The Cobra Defense League can’t be happy either.
In fairness to the Toadies, 2010’s Feeler is actually a re-recording of the band’s unreleased 1997 album of the same name, not Ghostfinger's 2008 release (FYI). The original LP — originally intended as a follow-up to their 1995 buzz-bin smashRubberneck, which also had a pretty awful cover — was shelved and condemned to languish in Interscope’s vaults for eternity. The major-label gridlock that claimed the album kept the band in the shadows for the duration of the ‘90s, effectively sealing them in the time capsule of post-grunge one-hit wonders. Unable to pry the Feeler masters from Interscope’s dying hands, they choose to re-record it for the fans who’ve long longed to hear the band’s long-lost effort. Now, if they can get past the cover art — which looks like a vintage, faux-3D, glow-in-the-dark insert poster from Relix magazine — they’ll get to.
I’m not sure if it gets more disturbing than this. The image is pretty self-explanatory. The album is called Korn III: Remember Who You Are, and then there’s a picture of what we can assume is a sexual predator stalking a pre-teen girl in an American wasteland. Either the band is trying to appeal to a demographic of sex offenders, or they're trying to shock parents with this painstaking attempt to seem spooky. Which, I guess, is just what you do to reinforce your dark, dangerous image when your bandmates are dropping like flies to give their lives and powers of rock to Christ. Korn are really going to great lengths to continue looking creepy and subversive. Considering their age, I’d say it’s working. At 39, Korn singer Jonathan Davis has been singing about child abuse for nearly 20 years. I’d say that constitutes a pretty unhealthy obsession. Perhaps Chris Hansen and Dateline should start monitoring Korn’s message boards.
OK, the Deftones have always been an artistic and critical cut above their post-grunge contemporaries — they at least had the sense to rip-off Hum — but album covers like this are among the reasons they’re always guilty by association. I think I might go to FYE and ask if they have any spare promo posters for this record. I’d like to plaster them to my roof to scare the pigeons away.
Trapt — yes, they’re still a band — have managed to fit all their remaining fans on the cover of their new record which, headstrong as ever, they’re calling No Apologies. Trapt? No apologies? Really?
While, as an artist, Meat Loaf hardly fits in to the discussion of Soundgarden-relative rock, let’s just use the Meat/Cornell Venn Diagram argument to make a case for the inclusion of this unsightly gem. I mean, they both sing like they’ve got an inherent hatred of stained glass windows, and they were both born in America in the 20th century. While Bat out of Hell begged the question “Where do you go from ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’?” And Bat II begged the question “What wouldn’t Meat do for love?” (Answer: Talk about Fight Club), Bat III finds Loaf-lovers wondering where Meat’s post-Jim Steinman twilight will take him. Well the answer is Hang Cool Teddy Bear — a title bearing what is perhaps the most ironic use of the word “cool” ever.
And just in case you haven't seen the cover for Jeff Beck's latest, "feast" your eyes.