ALBUM 18: Graffiti Soul | 2009 | designer: Curious
The next Simple Minds album took a stately four years to materialize, and when it did, it was in a deceptively plain, black sleeve as designed by the Edinburgh design team Curious. Inside the black cover were violently colorful art and lyric pages heavily influenced by famous artists Gilbert + George. There are no images I can find online from the booklet, but this t-shirt image from the Simple Minds shop with a “Graffiti Soul” design can get the point across. Similar imagery informs the design of the booklet.
The hyper saturated, pop composite imagery on this shirt is typical of the booklet art, which sometimes has the band incorporated into the image as well. And a heavy axis of symmetry is always present. Contrast that to a typical piece of Gilbert + George art.
Simple Minds were not the first to look to these two as touchstones for album art. David Bowie’s “Tonight” album of 1984 beat them to the punch by a good 25 years and had its finest moment being the expertly executed Gilbert + George pastiche that formed its cover.
Not to mention Nitzer Ebb with 1991’s more pedestrian “Ebbhead.”
At least this Simple Minds album had much more musically to offer. The straight album had eight tracks, with two “bonus tracks.” As far as I can see, these two bonus tracks also were included in the download copies of the album, so the distinction is a bit fuzzy. The excellent “Shadows + Light” being one and their Neil Young cover of “Rockin’ In The free World” which came from their limited edition bonus album “Searching For the Lost Boys” being the other. Speaking of limited editions, this is what sits in my Record Cell, since I always want the full Monty with this band.
The added album of quickly recorded, live in the studio covers had a pleasing vibrance, even if their second attempt at a cover album [following 2001’s “Neon Lights”] was more wanting than their first. Many of the songs were adequate. The Neil Young, Magazine, Elvis Costello cuts were solid if underwhelming. More interesting to me was the Siouxsie + The Banshees cover of “Christine.” It was the one cover that Simple Minds had done by this point that managed to become definitive to my ears. The less said about folk tunes like “Whisky In The Jar,” or especially “Sloop John B,” the better!
The booklet for the deluxe CD had an extra four pages, since it needed to contain Jim Kerr’s liner notes for the bonus album as well as what he had written for the main record. The title of the album was initially mooted to have been injection molded into the jewel box cover, but the manufacturing costs were deemed unacceptable. I only have one such jewel box, with custom art by the French band, Niagra [their “Religion” album has the cover’s crucifix logo embossed in the jewel box cover] out of thousands of CDs, so we’ll cut Simple Minds some slack for the Scot within them. Especially since the deluxe edition came in a card slipcase with two Jakeboxes inside of it.
Jakeboxes were unique cardboard popup sleeves that dispensed the CD gently into your hands when opening the cover via some clever origami technology. This was probably not cheap, but it certainly got your attention after you bought it, which meant that the bland, black chrysalis let forth butterflies, but only after purchase. Speaking of bland, the outside cover layout looked remarkably similar to that on the “Our Secrets Were The Same” cover image. The type treatment was identical, and that tiresome claddagh was used, yet again! The only relief came from the graffiti style rendering of the claddagh this go round. While the deluxe CD is all that I have, its by no means the last word on the design variety that this album had in store.
For the first time in 14 years, there was another Simple Minds album pressed on LP, with the deluxe version getting the nod in a 2xLP set in a gatefold sleeve with the full complement of tracks. Universal only pressed 800 of these at the last minute, and with my limited budget, I didn’t exactly feel the need, but if I do see one lying around I’d probably buy it… purely as an investment. If I could afford it. The sleeves contained the lyrics in a layout very different from that of the CD booklets.
That meant that the colorful artwork that accompanied the lyric pages in the CD booklet was laid out in the cover’s gatefold. Yes, Simple Minds achieved the gatefold cover for only the second time in their storied career. Their 1986 live album being the first.
There was one unique promo package worth mentioning. In Hungary, of all places, there was was a limited 8xCD boxed set of the album with colorful card sleeves [probably bearing the booklet lyric page art] for each of the eight ‘standard album” songs.
Needless to say, this sort of thing remains in the realm of the fantastic for me. Only thirty were made with twenty going to the media to actually promote the release, and five each being split among employees of Universal Hungary and entrants in a radio competition. Given the costs involved, I’ll bet these were CD-Rs as commonly used in promo, with art stickers on plain white card sleeves, so if you really want one of these, I’ll be glad to make it for you on some rainy day in the far flung future.
Next: …Two Days left in the week…can I finish?