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Posts tagged ‘visual culture’

In Praise of Album Covers

While the topic of album covers is obviously not film (or even moving-image media), I do think it speaks to concerns in film studies about media convergence, obsolete forms, and the open-ended relation of images to sounds.  I haven’t thought about the album cover as an artform for a long time, but I was struck recently by the Dum Dum Girls’ new release, Only in Dreams.  Had I not bought this album on vinyl, I don’t think I would have any appreciation for it.

The music itself on Only in Dreams is a disappointment.  The lyrics are vague and awkward, filled with pronouns and lazy rhymes (at one point Dee Dee, the band’s creative force, rhymes “right” with itself.)  Nearly every song has exactly the same midtempo, backbeat-heavy rhythm that groups use when they want to sound like the Beatles.  You know this beat when you hear it (see Nirvana, the Wonders).  Eight of the ten tracks on Only in Dreams repeat it.  Dum Dum Girls’ first album, I Will Be (from last year) also used that pulse a lot, but in fresher ways.  It felt like a groundwork for playing with varied tempos, thicker song structures, sharper guitar hooks, and meatier lyrics.  Songs had a sense of humor (“Oh Mein M,” “Jail La La”) and a surprising emotional depth (“Lines Her Eyes,” “Everybody’s Out”).  Only in Dreams sounds more like a clockwork imitation of 1960s  British beat bands and girl groups than a renewal of their spirit.

I Will Be, however, doesn’t have a very interesting cover.  The cover of Only in Dreams is phenomenal.  And it’s phenomenal in a way that needs the enlarged scale of a long-play record sleeve to be seen and felt as phenomenal.  (Which is why I don’t think a picture of the cover would be helpful here.)

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