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 411mania » Music » Columns

The Savage Animal 02.15.12 The Album Covers of U2
Posted by Mikey MiGo on 02.15.2012

At the Super Bowl we were "treated" to a half time show by Madonna. I thought it sucked, but a lot of people didn't. That's not the point here today. She had a slew of guests on stage with her, but one of her guests took it upon herself to, as they say in wrestling, "go into business for himself"… or "herself" in this case.

M.I.A. flipped off the camera. A lame middle finger. It's not like we've not seen one of those before. It just seemed so pathetic. It's OBVIOUSLY a thought out publicity stunt. It's a "look at me! look at me! I'm being rebellious and vulgar" thing. This is M.I.A. though. This is what she does. She's like the Tila Tequila of music. M.I.A. does this shit all the time, but just not on a big grand stage like the Super Bowl. The Janet Jackson nip-slip thing was WAY worse and got TONS more attention. This proves there IS a difference between "cheap stunt" and "trashy stunt".

Before it could really settle in, it's been taken care of. There was some news about it, but Madonna herself dropped a statement on a radio show, "I understand it's punk rock and everything, but to me there was such a feeling of love and good energy, and positivity, it seemed negative. It's such a teenager ... irrelevant thing to do ... there was such a feeling of love and unity there. What was the point?"

Madonna has done her share of stunts too. She knows how to work the media with the best of them. In one swoop she washed her hands of it, got on the public's side, and discredited the actions of M.I.A. I SERIOUSLY don't think the word "irrelevant" was used on accident. Harsh! Proving once again, you don't screw with Madge!

I'm sure M.I.A. does have talent and skill, but outside of that pseudo-catchy "Paper Planes" song she hasn't had much break through success. The lack of another hit track aside, I think a main reason this is going on is because she's such a dumb and unpleasant person. She's that annoying insecure teenager who's acting out in any way possible in order to get attention. Let's just not give it to her. I know, I'm a hypocrite for dedicating this much time to her. I'm not going to go any farther though. I'm just saying its obvious what she's doing and if all just collectively turn our heads and ignore her she'll go back to being someone else's problem.

Can Twelve Images Represent Over 30 Years of Rock?
A band will put upwards to a year or more into writing, recording, and shaping a new collection of songs. These collected works are called albums; a physical piece of property that represents the work of that band. All of the time, effort, and passion going into the process. A great band will put their entire soul into these works. How it's presented is important.

The first thing you actually see in terms of a new album is the cover. For years album covers were an important part of pop culture. Fans of music would have to use records. On these records were either artistic promo photography or art in itself to represent the music. That's what the album cover does. It represents the album, the time period, and is part of history. I've always had a huge interest and love for album covers. I even dug cassette tape art. A really good visual product and promotional material to go with a really good album is an art in itself.

This is going to be a new feature in The Savage Animal. From time to time I'm going to take a deeper look at a band's collection of album art. I want to see how it evolves, how it represents the band, the album, and the times. I just think it'll be an interesting project to undertake.

The first band's album art I'm going to check out is arguably the biggest and best band of modern rock and roll. I don't know many people in my age group that really likes this band as much as I do. People get the wool pulled over their eyes on U2's actual level of awesomeness. U2 deserves every bit of the success it has received. They made music that breaks through to the masses while still maintaining edge, creative leeway, melody, quality, and acclaim. They put out stuff that's consistently solid. Some say their best days are in the past, but that doesn't mean their new stuff isn't better than anything else out there. A lot of the negative shit towards the band comes from dumb people shitting on Bono. Maybe he's a little pushy and overbearing at times, but his heart is obviously in the right place and the man is doing more good for the world than probably anyone reading this.

For a band to have that much longevity, they have to evolve and explore new styles and try new things. The journey of U2 has been an awesome one. Let's see if their album covers reflect that…

Album: Boy
Release: 1980

This was a pretty weird album cover. The album is called "Boy" and all, but it's just a little unsettling. The creepy stare and blank face is almost jarring. The boy here is Peter Rowan. He's 37 now and lives in Dublin, Ireland. He's the little brother of a school friend of Bono. He would appear on a few album covers and in one video. He's now a photographer himself.
Rating: 7.0

Album: October
Release: 1981

The original cover had the same picture, but shrunk down with a whole lot of white space and small text informing the listener of the track titles. When it was released wide it was cropped down to just feature the picture and the title text. The band looks so young. Those jackets and hair styles are great. The actual photograph is pretty cool. The composition is strong and I like the way the band is positioned and how they all seem to be looking in different directions. Later one, you'll find out that this would be an attribute of one of my favorite album covers.
Rating: 8.0

Album: War
Release: 1983

Peter Rowan returns! A little older, a little wiser, and a little angrier. I think this is a much stronger picture than "Boy". The deeper contrast makes it pop more and makes it a much more demanding photo. Bono's reasoning for the boy being on a cover for an album titled "War" was "Instead of putting tanks and guns on the cover, we've put a child's face. War can also be a mental thing, an emotional thing between loves. It doesn't have to be a physical thing." Well said.
Rating: 8.0

Album: The Unforgettable Fire
Release: 1984

The beautiful Irish castle on this cover is called Moydrum. The idea to use the castle as the cover was inspired by the cover of a book called "In Ruins: The Once Great House of Ireland". They took the cover so much that this album cover's similarity caused them to have to pay compensation. It was taken from the same spot, but they polarized it and had the band stand around. It's a cool cover for sure. I don't understand the framing. Why the red background? The font used is REALLY 80's. The image is a copy, the color is boldly weird, and the font is dated. Being a bias fan I do have a connection to the cover, but on a visual sense it's probably one of their weaker covers.
Rating: 6.0

Album: The Joshua Tree
Release: 1987

This is a great album cover. The band almost called this album "The Desert Songs", based on the bands idea to use desert-like imagery for the album. The name would be changed in result of a series of images that'll forever be part of music history. In late 1986 they worked with photographer Anton Corbijn on a three day photo shoot in the Mojave Desert. This three day shoot sounds like a story within itself. It was said that it was really cold during their shoot. This explains why they look so grim and grouchy in the photo.
Rating: 9.5

Album: Rattle and Hum
Release: 1988

This cover is simple an image with text. No weird cropping or anything. It's a shot of Edge rocking out while Bono shines a spotlight on him. This is a shot from their live performance of "Bullet the Blue Sky", one of my favorite tracks of theirs. It's a really good shot.
Rating: 7.5

Album: Achtung Baby
Release: 1991

This is one of the coolest covers the band put out there. You just don't see any album covers like this one. We see 16 squares of different images all coming together to form one image. They considered a few of these "cells" to be the full cover including the cow, a shot of Adam Clayton, and the band driving in a German car. The idea behind the album art was to push the alter egos and individual personas. To reflect their sound shift they wanted a more "dancey" cover. It's been said that this is Bono's favorite cover too. I think it's because of the eyeliner.
Rating: 8.0

Album: Zooropa
Release: 1993

I used to have a big poster of this cover on my office wall for a few years. It's clearly not the best album cover or even their best album, but I still proudly presented the art. It's an interesting piece. It's a collage of insanity. In my research for this, I actually learned more about it than I expected. The weird corroding purple is actually letters featuring pieces of song titles. Behind that is blurred squares of images. On top of it all is pixilated stars and a "sad cosmonaut" graffiti shot. They almost named this album "Squeaky". How much cooler would that have been?
Rating: 7.0

Album: Pop
Release: 1997

This has to be one of the lamest covers of the band's run. It's four close ups of high contrast pixilated shots of the band members. The dull grey base color doesn't do any of the images any favors. This is just a really lazy and unappealing cover. The font is even really boring. The album is a misunderstood piece of awesomeness, but the cover is so bad that I think people take it out on the music on this one.
Rating: 3.5

Album: All That You Can't Leave Behind
Release: 2000

This is my favorite U2 album cover. I know that's "crazy" considering we just looked at The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. Hear me out. The cover is a photograph taken by Anton Corbijn at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris, France. I remember staring at this album cover with so much awe. It's a great photograph. Each band member is looking in a different direction, lost in their own world. Their 90's covers were all big and colorful, but this understated black and white shot is perfect. The framing and the feel of the camera capturing a spontaneous moment is awesome. I know most could say this was around the time the band went "overly-commercial", but this album is solid. The poster of this needs to be on my wall.
Rating: 9.5

Album: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
Release: 2004

This is a decent cover. The centered black and white image of the band is cool. They all seem casual and laid back. It's like they're either worn out, waiting, or worn out AND waiting. It's another one of those "captured moments" things. It's the band in Portugal from another Anton Corbijn shoot.There is a really cool "retro" feel to this cover. The weird red sideways lines at the top are cool. It's random, it's bold, and it's art. The weird red sideways lines are not pretending to be anything other than weird red sideways lines.
Rating: 7.5

Album: No Line on the Horizon
Release: 2009

This is a photograph taken by Hiroshi Suimoto. It's a blurred horizon line of the Boden Sea. It's an interesting image and all, but not interesting enough to be a U2 album cover. It's also a bit too similar to a Nine Inch Nail's album cover. Like REALLY similar. I didn't like it for that either. I know the title track of "No Line on the Horizon" makes the image make sense and is even said to have inspired the song. It's still lack luster.
Rating: 4.0

Another week, another unhealthy heaping helping of busting ass and sleeping less and less. Along with a meeting, some design, and casting things it's been hectic. We got over 1100 songs submitted to Rockstar Wrestling through the great website SonicBids.com. That's awesome and extremely flattering. The hard part was telling bands that we'd not be needing their talents for the first season of Rockstar Wrestling. Rejecting close to 800 bands was rough. Writing a mass rejection letter most likely pained me more to type than it will the rejected bands. I GREATLY appreciate any artist showing interest in our project and would like to feature as many independent artists as possible. Sadly, there just won't be enough programming to feature 1100+ songs. I love what we "selected". There was even stuff I had to "reject" that I liked. Ugh.

Now for two independent wrestling mini-rants!

With all due respect to in-dee wrestling, graphic design can STILL be an art. I've been seeing some very horrible looking promo pop up on my "facebook stream". It's sad that technology has advanced, but wrestling posters STILL look something out of 1997 angelfire.com era. Have some self respect. A casual fan will see shitty promo and automatically assume it's a shitty product. You're only hurting yourselves and the people you're attempting to "promote".

Same goes for YOU, musicians! Same goes for YOU!

In the 90's, I remember the word "Extreme" being tossed around a lot of promo. Now it's "Pro". Folks, putting "Pro" in an independent wrestling promotion's name isn't fooling anyone. Too many companies are copying off each other making themselves faceless in and already over-saturated "community". For reals, just call yourself "Generic Pro" and pass out some fliers. You'll get the same results.

If you've come this far, you might as well watch the video…



This cast sounds like an all star team. Robert De Niro, Julianne Moore, Oliva Thrilby, Lili Taylor, and a slew of other people that we've seen in a lot of other things. With a cast like that you'd assume that it's a Scorsese type of movie. It's not. The movie actually stars Paul Dano. He's working at a homeless shelter when he comes back into contact with his long lost troubled father. He then deals with the idea of being alone and getting him back into his life. De Niro plays the father and seems to be in an interesting role for once. I'm not saying De Niro is a bad actor AT ALL, but I AM saying he doesn't attempt to showcase range very often. This is one of those rare occasions. I could imagine this movie being an award winner come the time. You don't put those kinds of ingredients together and get anything all that bad.


Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor, and Jim Burke make great movies. I've been a huge fan of "Sideways" since I first saw it. I'll still occasionally watch it with the commentary on absorbing its experience and their experience in general. Payne makes smart movies. It's not even fair to say "movie". They make art house films that are accessible and connectable as any other form of artistic expression. The buzz and hype for this movie started months ago. I wanted to see it. The cast sounded awesome. I was still a big put off. See, I've never been a huge fan of George Clooney. Something about the guy just rubs me the wrong way. I'm sure he's a good guy and I can't deny he's talented, but I just don't want to watch him. I feel like he plays the same person in everything. It's nothing more than "how would George Clooney react in THIS situation". Most of the time it's boring political thriller stuff, stuff with him in a stuffy suit saying witty things, or just what I've been dubbing lately "martini humor". That said I've loved some of the movie's he's not only been in, but starred in. I wasn't looking forward to seeing this movie mainly because I didn't really want to sit through a serious martini drama. What I'm saying is that George Clooney's involvement made me stand offish with this movie. Still, I manned up and finally got to watch this movie. Off the bat, I'll say it; Clooney was good. This is one of those movies that I'll have to like despite him… again. The problem I have is that for some reason I can't find a way to connect to anything Clooney does. He still did well carrying the movie. If you're a fan of his, this movie will be a blessing. Even once we get past that, this movie was beautiful. The story, the pacing, the characters, the casting, and just the overflowing pour of emotion was done so well that this movie should have its own ride at my made up Indie Film amusement park. The two young actresses that played his daughters were both great. I hope to see them continue to be involved with awesome projects because they can both definitely hang in there with the best of them. The rest of the supporting cast was strong too. Matthew Lillard stepped it up and made me see his acting chops in a whole new light. His small, but critical work should not go unnoticed. Same for Judy Greer. I've seen her take on good roles in good projects before, but it's still always cool to see her in something that's as successful and acclaimed as this. The story has been talked about a lot. It's a guy who finds out his wife cheated on him right before he's to pull the plug on her life support. He's left with two daughters and a short period of time to let everyone know that she's passing away, meanwhile dealing with everything and staying strong for the girls. It's a screwed up situation for sure. Jim Rash and Nat Faxon did a great job with the script. The locations are all in Hawaii, so of course it looks beautiful. The movie is being slowly poisoned with emotion. Lots of emotion and drama, but the characters and story make you want to finish and see it out. You want a happy ending, but you end up having to settle on being happy that it's ending because it means the characters get to move on. The dryness of the tone is one thing I liked a lot. Some things don't need to be thrown at you. With him it feels like whatever you need from a scene is experienced firsthand. This movie deserves the love it's getting. A-

I enjoyed this column a lot. I've always been a huge fan of album art so this new concept will likely pop up from time to time. It won't be every month like the "First Impression of…" or the "Videography of …". I'll probably pop back up with this one once every two months or so. I still want to keep The Savage Animal a more topical column. That said, according to my schedule of planned columns next week I'll be doing a "Videography of…" piece. That means I'll be watching a band's entire collection of music videos and giving my thoughts while hopefully getting us all a good perspective of that band's body of video work. Some bands have great videos and some have shitty videos. Let's always hope for great videos. I have no idea what band I'll be going with other than one with around a dozen videos. Until Next Time… Have a Great Week!


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