11 Great Album Covers, Chosen by Dean Dinning and Todd Nichols of Toad the Wet Sprocket

Hoodoo Gurus, Oasis, Wilco and more

It used to be hard to separate the album cover from the music. The album package was a huge part of a band's identity, and for me, a big part of the way I have always experienced music. You read the liner notes, all the lyrics, knew every band members name, where it was recorded and who produced it. I selected all of these while going through my personal vinyl collection as some of my favorites that I collected in the '90s.—Todd Nichols

Talk Talk
The Colour Of Spring (1986)

I think the album cover for The Colour of Spring by Talk Talk really matches the sometimes peaceful and sometimes tortured sound of Mark Hollis' amazing voice and music. Very influential album for me when starting out our band. This album is sonically a work of art, just like the album cover.—Todd Nichols

Hoodoo Gurus
Mars Needs Guitars (1985)

Great mid-'80s rock band from Australia with huge hooks—before we called it alternative rock. I've always thought the album cover used illustration in such a great way to capture the guitar focused vibe of the band, but also what the band might imagine themselves to look like in a dream when playing on Mars itself.—Todd Nichols

Hüsker Dü
Candy Apple Grey (1986)

Its kaleidoscope-colored album cover seems to capture the spirit of the Minneapolis punk band transitioning to a slightly more mainstream alternative rock sound on their first major label release. Bob Mould was known as the frontman for the band, but the album contains one of my favorite songs, "Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely," written and sung by drummer Grant Hart.—Todd Nichols

War (1983)

Of all the U2 album covers, this one just makes a statement and the intense black and white photograph really matched the band's new rawer sound, lyrics and Steve Lillywhite's production. This is the record that really put them on the map and into arenas in the early '80s. This record still holds up today.—Todd Nichols

The Stone Roses
The Stone Roses (1989)

This Stone Roses album cover is as cool as the band was, especially since it was done by the band's guitarist John Squire, with a nod to Jackson Pollack. A classic album by a very influential Manchester band that only put out two studio records and then disappeared. The production by John Leckie perfectly captured the band's great dynamics and grooves.—Todd Nichols

Murmur (1983)

In the early days of our band, I spent many hours staring at the photo on the cover of R.E.M.'s Murmur while listening to this masterpiece on headphones. I love photos of abandoned places, where nature is creeping back in and reclaiming the space from whatever we temporarily placed in it. The vines on the Murmur album cover are called kudzu vines, commonly seen in the southeastern United States. It was planted all over the south from the 1930s to the 1950s as a tool to prevent soil erosion. Just a wonderful, strange, haunting image that seemed to go perfectly with the music.—Dean Dinning

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

This photo of Chicago's Marina City towers on Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album has an unbalanced quality that mirrors what was going on with the band at the time of the album's release. The buildings themselves, which opened in 1963, projected the optimism of the space age, but in the album cover photo the optimism has been knocked off kilter and rendered in sad sepia tones. Wilco had been dropped from Warner Brothers records after the completion of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and were looking for a new record deal, (while songs were already starting to leak online) and the photo brings the feeling of an uncertain future into sharp focus.—Dean Dinning

Odelay (1996)

The cover of Beck's 1996 album Odelay appears to show a common kitchen mop jumping over a hurdle, but it is actually a dog called a Komondor, a breed from Hungary with a heavy, corded coat that makes it look like it would be very effective for cleaning up spills. The photo, by canine photographer Joan Ludwig, has been repurposed from a 1977 issue of the American Kennel Club Gazette, a reminder that the vintage samples that are used throughout this album are also found items that could have been easily forgotten. And the idea of an animal with crazy hair jumping over hurdles sounds mighty familiar to anybody who has spent time in the music business.—Dean Dinning

Lost and Gone Forever (1999)

This cover all comes down to the incredible photo of a kid standing on top of a piano that has been destroyed and decaying and is lying in a pile of junk. The photo, by photographer Phillip Jones Griffiths, was found by designer Robert Hamilton in a bookstore when he was just browsing around for ideas. I like that the photo is mysterious, but it reminds me that Guster is a band that does things differently; they don't have a bass player and the drummer plays drums with his hands. Destroying a piano (which was already broken before the kid with the rock came along), along with the curiosity on the faces of the three kids (Guster also has three members) reminds us that this piano killing is a merciful one.—Dean Dinning

Definitely Maybe (1994)

Another great photo, shot by photographer Michael Spencer Jones, places all the members of Oasis in a room at one of the band member's houses, facing a beautiful bay window and surrounded by objects brought in by the band and their roadies. I love the pink flamingo, the photo of Burt Bacharach, and the blurred, spinning globe. The fact that Liam, the singer, is lying on the floor, sums up his personality perfectly and also draws the eye in to the photo. And for a band that has had such a hard time staying together, forcing them all to be together in a small space seems fitting.—Dean Dinning

Toad The Wet Sprocket
Fear (1991)

To create the album cover for Fear, we had the idea to send the lyrics and the finished album to an artist, or artists, and not give them any direction except "maybe something with butterflies" and just let them be inspired by what we created, and see what they would create in their medium. We looked at several artists we liked, and eventually decided on Hans Neleman. He had this style of combining objects and organic material, lighting it and photographing it. I remember when we received what became the cover, we were kind of shocked—it was definitely striking, and we weren't sure we liked it, but we knew it was bold and we just decided to go for it.—Dean Dinning

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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Dean Dinning and Todd Nichols
Toad the Wet Sprocket consists of founding members Glen Phillips, Todd Nichols and Dean Dinning. The band is still making new music and touring with the same spirit of independence that started it all over three decades ago and credit their success to the unwavering support of their fans. Find them now on their ALL YOU WANT tour, which will take them to cities across the country to once again reconnect with their fans and share their music. All You Want (Bonus Edition) will be released on May 26.

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