10 Great Album Covers, Selected by Tom Kenney of PPK

Yazoo, Pet Shop Boys, The Smiths and more

At some point in my childhood, I discovered I was pretty damn good at drawing things. I gravitated toward the arts and anything that was different from the mainstream. I naturally fell into the New Wave/Alternative music scene. As with any music trend came the fashion. For me, it was black turtlenecks, Doc Martens and teased hair that could rival Robert Smith of The Cure. I had a lot of fun going back through the albums and album art that meant something to me. If you were lucky enough to grow up in the '80s and enjoyed alternative music, I think you'll enjoy my selections.

New Order
Substance 1987 (1987)

Less is more. I absolutely love the dichotomy of this album's design to its title. So simple and beautiful with a strong use of black and white, no grays, and a delicate font (Berthold Bodoni, I think). All this and New Order still has the balls to list the year the album was created.

Pet Shop Boys
Introspective (1988)

I still have this album hanging in my office. It's a great example of how I would visually depict a Pet Shop Boys concert. The artistry, the costumes, the color and the attention to style and fashion. Plus, it always reminded me of the Benetton Colors ad campaign, which I loved.

The Smiths
Meat is Murder (1985)

I can't say I even knew what a vegetarian was when I bought this album. I just thought Morrissey had cool hair and I liked a bunch of The Smiths songs. I didn't realize there was a moral plea to stop butchering animals. I assumed by this cover design it was an anti-war message. I don't know, I was 15 and the t-shirt was cool too.

Depeche Mode
Violator (1990)

The Violator album was released in 1990. I was at the height of my "I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside" phase. (Lyrics thanks to Morrissey). This album design was dark with a sexual hit of religion. Even the title made me feel dark.

The Cure
Disintegration (1989)

The Disintegration album cover was magical to me. I was heavily into my painting career and I looked at this design as a piece of art. The layering of imagery was fascinating, I was just learning Photoshop at this time and I would look at this cover and try to figure out how they designed it.

Upstairs at Eric's (1982)

I remember when I first saw this album cover. I was like "How the fuck?" Then I looked closer and assumed those must be mannequins. But, I was so intrigued with what the narrative was here. What are these guys discussing? Who is Eric? Maybe this is Eric's apartment… I mean this is pre-Google days, my friends.

The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste (1989)

Industrial Metal. I never thought I would get into this type of music, but I did. Ministry's album design was the perfect wrapper for the music inside. Dark, synthesized terror. Hence the skull, need I say more?

Orange Crush (1988)

Truth. I was never a huge R.E.M. fan. But, I loved this album cover and record. I always thought it must have cost so much money to produce an orange record. This may have been a precursor to me becoming an art director, but I loved how they center justified the title and bleed the edges.

Talking Heads
True Stories (1986)

I really liked David Byrne as a kid. I really didn't like his music so much as I liked how odd he was. This album's design in particular was special to me because of my love of the artist Barbara Kruger and her black and white collage artwork. The comparison in this artwork is easy to make.

The Smiths
Louder Than Bombs (1987)

I loved everything about this album and cherished it. I always felt like I had a "one of a kind’" album. This was most likely the moment when I fell in love with duo-tone and saturation. This woman drew me in. I wanted to know so much more about what was happening at this moment. "Who is this woman?" "Smoking looks cool." Damn, I wish I still had this album.

Art of the Album is a regular feature looking at the craft of album-cover design. If you'd like to write for the series, or learn more about our Clio Music program, please get in touch.

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