The Savage Animal 03.13.13: The Top 9 Memorable Album Covers of The 90s
Posted by Mikey MiGo on 03.13.2013
411's Mikey MiGo critiques and ranks nine memorable album covers from the 90’s. All of this, a rant on David Bowie’s The Next Day, a review of Stand Up Guys, a preview review of the Hangover III trailer and more!
I'm not sure if you know this, but prayer can in fact be answered sometimes. A few weeks ago David Bowie unofficially/officially dropped his latest album The Next Day. It's been about a million years since David Bowie put out an album. Though many critics and snobs will say his later work isn't that great, I've always been a fan. Some would even say a super fan. He's easily one of my favorite musicians and performers of all time. Like all Bowie fanatics, I've clamored over new material the past few years. I've listened to and loved his back catalog over and over to the point that its melodies are part of my natural pulse. When you're a fan of something, you have to maintain a respectful balance. On one side of it you want to respect the artist and make sure you're getting the best quality work from them when they want to share it. The other side is a bit more common. You just want MORE. MORE. MORE.
David Bowie gives us MORE with The Next Day. The cover is awesome. It's the iconic 1977 Heroes cover, but with a big white square covering with the simplest of texts. That's pretty ballsy and in itself one of the coolest album covers I've seen in a long time. It's an artistic "fuck you" to conformity and bland commercialism.
Then we listen to the album itself. Off the bat, I'll tell you this. It's not full of radio-friendly easy to digest rockers. I'm not saying it doesn't rock, it certainly does, but it's not an album with a clear cut stand out. It's a collage of sounds Bowie pieced together over a few years of top secret recording. I could go track by track and give some kind of crazy review. I assure you it would get really deep and cross levels of existentialism that a normal person would not want to read. I dug it all. I'm sure after listening to it a few dozen more times that I'll connect with some tracks more than others. I'll just say I recommend it. Listen to it when you have an hour to absorb it. You don't want to listen to in segments. You want to take the hour and take in the full vibe of it. The stand outs from the first listen or so to me were "Love Is Lost", "Valentine's Day", "I'd Rather Be High", "You Feel So Lonely You Could Die", and the closer "Heat". This will change every listen for a while. The best way to make up your own mind is to listen.
You can't call this a "comeback album" because David Bowie never leaves us. What the album provides is an overwhelming warm of experience. It's not a warning to the youth. It's not that Bowie is a bitter old man who wants us young people to shape up. It's more of a stern apathy from a star-eyed child. David Bowie knows he's David Bowie, but he also knows the man behind the curtain. We get both divided by only an elegant haze of true art. He isn't so much as jaded, but he knows what he's seen and he knows what he has experienced both internally and externally. It's amazing how someone can make you feel so comfortable and make you relate to every emotive metaphor, yet still pull you into places you never expected.
Did I mention I'm a fan?
9 MOST MEMORABLE ALBUM COVERS OF THE 90S
Old Timers… The 90's was pretty much a great decade for music. Granted in the later part of the decade we were ambushed with pop stars and boy bands, it wasn't that bad. When people think of the relation between the 90's and music it seems they automatically go to grunge music and gangster rap. There were other music styles popular at the time, but these were the two most relevant genres for sure.
The rise of grunge music was pretty awesome. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden would hit the scene and unleash some great hits. Most rock and roll purists would agree that this was the last "great era" in rock. Yes, there have been some great rock artists in the past twenty years but the overall "scene" pales in comparison. Meanwhile, gangsta rap scared the shit out of suburbia and it was great. We saw N.W.A. break off into their own projects and then the eventual rise and fall of both Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. Rap had something to say and it had some of its best representatives of all time saying it. I know the abrasive and violent nature wasn't for everyone, but no one could deny the actual substance behind the songs. I think that's what scared suburbia the most. Gangsta rap was violent and vulgar, but it was also brutally honest.
It would be easy to pick some favorite songs from the 90's; just as it would easy to pick favorite artists or music videos. Today I want to take a look at the album covers of the 90's. There was so much great music coming out during this decade that I think the appreciation of the album art is a bit neglected. If you're reading this, I'm thinking you already have a few 90's album covers in mind. Let's see if our lists match…
IX.] Artist: Dr. Dre
Album: The Chronic
Dr. Dre was put on the map as part of N.W.A. When his solo album came out people weren't expecting their minds to be blown. The Chronic is one of the most important albums to be released in the 90s. Without it, hip hop as we know it would not be nearly as decorated. This album gave us "Nuthin' but a G Thang", "Fuck wit Dre Day", and our first real glimpse of a young Snoop Doggy Dogg. The music and videos was top notch, but the cover cements its place in infamy. The cover would seem simple to the un-clouded eye. It's homage to the package artwork for Zig-Zag rolling papers. It speaks for itself.
VIII.] Artist: Marilyn Manson
Album: Smells Like Children
I've read it many times, but it still boggles my mind that this was only an E.P. It has as much substance and awesomeness as an LP for sure. The music on here is an assault on the ears. It balances melody with some of the most twisted sounds I've ever listened to on repeat. Needless to say, I'm a Manson fan. This album was my first exposure to the Manson. The "Sweet Dreams" single and video on here was responsible for me quickly going back and getting the old "Spooky Kids" catalog right before Antichirst Superstar would make him a house hold name. This cover always struck a chord with me. Manson poses at the camera with an insane look on his face with only shades of black and green being visible. The pink and orange font pops on top of it all. It's simple, but one of my personal favorite album covers of all time.
VII.] Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Album: Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Gus Van Sant is a great filmmaker, but did you know he was awesome in other mediums? I didn't! It was really cool to find this out, but Gus was the art director for this. It's the band's faces side profile with their tongue's out. The tongues spiral into a tribal pattern. In the center and in the covers are the tops of roses. It's nothing too major, but it's still prominent as hell. It's cool to look at and is an interesting, almost pop-art style. It also helps that Blood Sugar Sex Magikis a great album and everyone and their mother had a copy. "Under the Bridge" and "Give It Away" are two songs that sound almost nothing a like, but would define the band's career heading forward. Cool stuff.
VI.] Artist: The Smashing Pumpkins
Album: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Even if you don't listen to everything The Smashing Pumpkins put out, which you probably should, you should own at least one copy of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The songs on this double album were mind blowing. Songs like "Bullet with Butterfly Wings", "Tonight, Tonight", and "Zero" were embedding into the world that was 1990-whatever. You can even see and hear the band in an episode of The Simpsons around this time. This illustration is gorgeous. Whenever I see this album cover I wonder how it would look framed on a wall. The visuals are exquisite. Everything from the deep colors of the space, the random plants, the splatter of stars, and of course the woman leering out from an open star. John Craig, an artist who specializing in Neo-Victorian imagery did a great job here.
V.] Artist: Ol' Dirty Bastard
Album: Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version
This album was and still is outstanding. Wu-Tang's co-founder Ol' Dirty Bastard came out with his first solo project and dropped stuff like "Brooklyn Zoo" and "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" on us. This cover is great for more than a few reasons. It's a laminated food stamp card that's been customized to include O.D.B.'s face, autograph, the Wu-Tang logos, and the other little details. It's a really creative idea and works perfectly for the persona that the departed rapper displayed. One of the craziest things I ever saw on MTV was in 1995. O.D.B. was being interviewed about the album and was asked about the food stamp card situation. He proceeded to explain himself "I'm just trying to be real with it, you know what I'm saying?" before getting out of his limo and proceeding to pick up his monthly food stamp ration. There was so much that was wrong with that, but at the same time it was something you could only get from someone like Ol Dirty Bastard.
IV.] Artist: Green Day
I was never a huge Green Day fan. That's not saying I can't show proper respect to this great album. This pop-punk-rock-whatever album was a mid-90's staple. You couldn't and still really can't get away from hearing hits like "Longview", "Welcome to Paradise", "Basket Case", and "When I Come Around". They've had even bigger mainstream success in recent years, but this was clearly the peak of their coolness. The album cover is just one example of that. It's an illustration by Richie Bucher that has become one of the most beloved visuals of the 90s. It's a chaotic display of an interpretation of the East Bay where they're all from. There are tons of little things to take in and notice. It's an awesome piece. It's one of those album covers you'd stare at for hours taking in new little aspects of it. They originally wanted to call this album Liquid Dookie because they'd often suffer from diarrhea. They settled on Dookie and the rest is history. Broadway show to follow?
III.] Artist: No Doubt
Album: Tragic Kingdom
You're not going to find many bands out there that come close to the coolness of No Doubt. When everyone else was grunge, they brought a funkier ska rock to the mainstream. The band would put out other cool albums over the years but I have a hard time enjoying any of it as much as Tragic Kingdom. The videos rocked and the singles for "Spiderwebs", "Just a Girl", and "Don't Speak" were huge. Part of the madness was the band's image. They were contemporary in terms of being associated with "grunge", but they also were a bit brighter and less gloomy. They had a "classier" Chili Pepper's thing going on. Of course with Gwen as the front of the band, it brought on even more eyes. Her hotness is only rivaled by her talent. The cover for Tragic Kingdomreally captured the essence of the band. The nice graphic design work is bright and easy to look at. Gwen Stefani is bright and easy to look at. The band and the tree look cool too…
II.] Artist: Metallica
Album: Metallica (The Black Album)
Long before everyone started them "sell outs", before Lars Ulrich broke the internet, and before we had to witness their weepy group therapy documentary Metallica was the shit. In the late 80's they rose with their metal roots and then unleashed this beast and changed metal forever. They put melodic metal on the map while maintaining their take no shit credibility. I know its indie-taboo to say something so bold, but Metallica Metallica is as important, if not assloads more to metal as ANY post Sabbath album. The whole concept was to keep it simple. So what's simpler, bolder, and more metal than a (nearly) all black album cover. The only thing not solid black was the band name and the coiled snake, both a very dark shade of black. To most folks, this is simple The Black Album. The Beatles had The White Album and then bands like Weezer, KottonMouth Kings, and even Jay Z would try to emulate the "fab four's" iconic album's boldness. Metallica is the ONLY other band I can think have that came close. This album gave us "Enter Sandman", "The Unforgiven", Wherever I May Roam", "Sad but True", "Nothing Else Matters", and "Don't Tread on Me". It could have a black and white picture of a blue piece of paper and it would still be awesome.
I.] Artist: Nirvana
I think we've all seen Spencer Elden's penis so much that we're not even creeped out by it anymore. That is one sentence that I never expected to type, but it's true. Before the gasps and whispers, hear me out. Spencer Elden is the nude swimming baby on the cover of Nirvana's masterpiece Nevermind. In 1991, the band was set to release this monster and didn't have a cover. Supposedly inspired by a TV show about water births, Kurt Cobain thought it was a cool image. Kirk Weddle, the photographer, enlisted a friend's newborn and took him to a local pool. Elden explained to CNN a few years ago, "They went to the local pool, threw me in the water and that was it." The dollar bill on a hook was actually added later on. Apparently, there was controversy over the baby penis. Kurt Cobain would only allow it to be censored if it had a sticker on the cover that said "If you're offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile." Sadly, these awesome stickers were never needed. The result is the best and most iconic album cover of the 90s. I'm sure we all have our own personal favorites, but this album cover WAS the 90's.
What is YOUR favorite 90's album cover?
"STAND UP GUYS"
I watched this movie without knowing much about it. I knew the names on the poster (Walken, Pacino, and Arkin) and saw a part of a trailer that contained Christopher Walken saying "I threw up in my mouth". With that I was in. How could you not? The plot was interesting. It starts off with Pacino getting out of jail and his longtime friend Walken going to pick him up. We soon find out that these are older criminals and that Pacino still has a hit out on him. The man that has been contracted to do the killing is Walken. The two know each other so well that Pacino knows this but they still hang out knowing that at 10 AM the next day he is supposed to die. What happens next is a really fun one-night journey. It's like The Hangover for old criminals. They steal prescription drugs, beat up low lives, go to a whore house a few times, eat steak, steal cars, and have one helluva night. I could go into detail, but I think the fun is experiencing it with the characters. It's an experience that should be had. It's not them being super bad ass or crazy like in their most loved movies, but it's not them being lame old men either. It's a "coming of age" kind of story, but that "age" just so happens to be "old". I saw that Bill Burr was part of the cast too so I assumed that "Stand Up Guys" might involve some stand-up comedy. I was wrong. I forgot that Burr does act on occasion. This didn't ruin my night. It ended up being a fun and enjoyable movie. Julianna Margulies, Mark Margolis, and a hand full of other solid supporting actors made the movie even that much more enjoyable. To me, the stand out was Lucy Punch. She's always funny and good in things, but as the awkward manager of the whore house she was awesome and memorable. The movie isn't what I expected, but it was what it needed to be. Hopefully I'm not the only one who will appreciate that. If you are a fan of Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, or Alan Arkin then you want to see this movie. There is no reason not to. If you enjoy comedic action movies with a lot heart then this is for you as well. B
"Worst Case Scenario" is a new take on the concept of "fantasy booking". For years professional wrestling fans would spend endless hours of thinking up the coolest things that could happen. Why waste the energy? This only leads to high expectations. "Worst Case Scenario" flips that. Instead of looking through rose colored glasses, let's take a bi-weekly look at the worst possible scenarios in professional wrestling. I'm not going to be malicious or anything too mean, but I will not refrain from letting my brain come up with the worst possible shit I can. Sadly, it seems the writers and producers of mainstream TV wrestling and the mainstream iPPV level indies are doing the same thing but charging us for it. And now…
"Return of the Cruiserweight Title!"
In the mid to late 90's, the Cruiserweight Title was one of the best reasons to watch WCW programming. They signed up all of these bad ass luchadores, Japanese wrestlers, and smaller indie guys and let them go at it. They fought at high speeds and brought a whole new side of wrestling to the American audience. It rocked. Meanwhile the WWF was playing catch-up. They started the "Lightweight Title" and tried their own version of it. They did bring in some solid people like Sasuke, Taka, Scottie Taylor, Brian Christopher, and others. They pushed it for a while, but it just never caught on.
Then WWE would eventually own WCW. They took their property and ran with it for a while before dismantling it. One of the things that came over was the Cruiserweight Title. It would last awhile. The likes of Rey Rey, Chavo, and others would have nice runs with it. The problem is that it was never a big focus. It would eventually fade away. The last WWE Cruiserweight champion I can remember is Hornswoggle.
So today let's talk about the WWE bringing it back. Off the bat everyone would get excited. With all of the smaller talent the company has this could be a great thing. Imagine the kind of tournament they could have. This could even be where an El Generico, Richie Steamboat, and others could debut for.
The action would rock for a while, no doubt. But this wouldn't last. Eventually the stand out cruiserweight would be bumped up to the weak mid-card. The talent gap would get wider and the focus would fade. Eventually the title wouldn't be defended on television for a while and eventually we'd all have trouble remembering who the champion was. This is all much like the WWE Divas division. Someone would get the "witty idea" to use the title as a joke again. Before we know it Hornswoggle would be champion again. If you thought CM Punk's reign was long, Hornswoggle will run a train on the division. Imagine Hornswoggle pinning El Generico after a three minute match Youtube match as a pre-show to some random PPV.
Oh! And lots of hurricanranas. LOTS! Can't do a "little guy match" without ‘em!.
"HANGOVER PART III"
The first Hangover movie was a great movie. Possibly one of the funniest of the past ten or so years. If you enjoy comedy movies then you've seen it more than once and you appreciate it's madness. The second one was solid too, but I totally get people's argument that they just did the same things over again just in a different location. There was a lot of "we already saw that, but it's still funny" moments. The problem is that we all loved the first one so much that we did watch it a few times. When you see it again and again and again you think you want the same thing, but you're just numbing yourself to it. I'm not saying it was sterile or uninspired, but it just lacked that magic of the first. That said, I'm still in for more. I'm excited as hell to see what the "The Wolfpack" is up to this time around. From the information released and the little we've seen I'm pretty confident that this one will really mix it up and take us on a fucked up ride. We know there's no wedding, bachelor party, or any of the same devices from before. They're going a different route and you can't help but get excited about the mystery. The cast is already sharp as hell, but the addition of John Goodman and the return of Heather Graham just puts it over the edge of coolness. Todd Phillips is a smart guy and I'm sure he and the guys have a lot of passion invested. I'm confident they'll go out on a strong note.
That's all for now. This wasn't horrible. The 90's is a music period that I'll always romanticize. I'll always have a huge interest in the Woodstock era as well, but I got to experience the 90's first hand so it stands out fondly. I'll attempt to get back into modern times before too long. Not too soon though. Next week I'll be taking a listen to the discography of The Police. Like everyone, I've been exposed to their biggest hits but I have no real frame of reference to any of their work. We'll finally cross that bridge together. From there I'm keeping busy with a ramble about fake songs in wrestling, the album covers of Madonna, and eventually I'm going to bite the Chicagoland bullet and listen to the studio discography of Fall Out Boy. Yikes. Until next time… Have a Great Week!