Simple Minds Sidebar 1: Ranking The Cover Art [part 13]

ALBUM 21: Big Music | 2014 | designer: Peacock

Universal | UK | CD | 2014

Caroline | UK | CD | SMBM03

Back cover

Back cover

When Simple Minds dropped the first preview images of their latest album, “Big Music,” many could not help but think of Depeche Mode’s iconic cover to their album “Music For The Masses.” It was certainly the first notion to come to my mind. Here, there were some differences, but the notion of communicating widely via electronic loudspeaker was the underlying visual metaphor for both covers. The Simple Minds take was certainly of its time, and all the poorer for it. The Depeche Mode cover was one of their many excellent covers, and superior in every way to the cheap Simple Minds cover.

Mute Records | UK | CD | CD STUMM 47

Mute Records | UK | CD | CD STUMM 47

The Depeche Mode album has absolutely beautiful cover photography and design by Martyn Atkins’ Town + Country Planning firm. The loudhorn construction was actually placed in a real environment and photographed for the artwork, and the key lighting on the foreground against that dramatic sunset was a vivid example as any as to the power of photography during that brief magic window in the immediate pre-dawn, post-dusk hour where the landscape comes alive in a way that simply doesn’t happen under other lighting conditions. That cover photo is worth a million dollars. The logo and typography above it only adds to the overall value of the cover.

Contrast that to the cheap, nasty 3D graphic adorning the Simple Minds album! Not only is it derivative of the earlier cover but it is endlessly inferior on both technical and emotional levels. The only thing clever about it was the fact that the four largest loudhorns, as seen from above, form a variation on the Maltese Cross, which had long been part of Simple Minds’ iconography since appearing on the cover to “Promised You A Miracle.” Apart from that, there isn’t much to write home about. The font is adequate, and its placement dead center above [just like Depeche Mode] smacked of complacency. If they were going to use the same idea, the least that they could have done was to minimize the layout similarities.

Virgin Records | UK | 3xCD | 2013

The back cover of the Simple Minds CD was very different from the Depeche Mode model, with a staged shot of the band about to enter an arena of light as seen from the back. It’s miles more interesting than the cover and they might have used that instead. Even so, it’s been retouched to within an inch of its life, and at the size I’m looking at in my Record Cell, I can’t say with 100% certainty that this image was not also the product of a 3D rendering program and heavy Photoshop abuse. The work necessary to set up and take that back cover shot belies the cheapness in evidence elsewhere on this packaging, so this is where my suspicion comes from. Also, the last album cover that Peacock did for Simple Minds [“Celebrate: The Greatest Hits”] was completely reliant on CGI to render the “Colonel” from the cover of “Empires + Dance” overwritten with lyrics, that was much more interesting a concept than this in any case.

The cover is not the only aspect of the packaging that is Mode-reliant. The actual disc label printing is also redolent of the earlier disc.

The disc itself

The disc itself

Music For The Masses CD label

Music For The Masses CD label

And the Depeche Mode disc has the great type and logo treatment completely lacking on the Simple Minds disc. Shameless.

Next: …We’re not done here by a long shot…

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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7 Responses to Simple Minds Sidebar 1: Ranking The Cover Art [part 13]

  1. JT says:

    Each of the 12″singles, variant import 12″ singles, and 7″ singles from the Music for the Masses era featured additional unique photos of the loudspeaker array, all shot in different landscapes (or in close-up for the Strangelove singles). Coupled with a motif of maps as background images, this was a strong, consistent, and cohesive design that branded that entire era of DM’s career. When I purged my comprehensive and complete collection of DM’s vinyl output (1981 to 1990), the MftM-era was the hardest to let go, just because it looked so damned good as a set.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      JT – Yeah, that was the end of the golden era of great DM art. The [unending] Anton Corbijn epoch got old pretty fast for me, even though I terminated my interest when the “Violator” cycle concluded for no really good reason. SOFAD was released right when I was moving and buying my first Mac [Quadra 840AV 16/500 – you do the 1993 math] so I sort of curtailed music purchases until some time in 1994. I was not moved by the first video for “Walking In My Shoes” and when I moved, I stopped watching TV in about three months. No MTV. No more DM video, so it all ended there. I just noticed last month that I still have the JPN “Strange Too” laserdisc that I need to sell of! Like the rest of my DM single collection. Memo to self.

      I sort of felt the same way you did when I sold off my DD “Notorious” era rarities. That period was a clean minimal look that I liked, even though I didn’t “need’ the music on the records that I had elsewhere. I had to think more than twice about making the Malcolm Garret era the cut-off point where I kept my DD collection. Given that I find “Notorious” to be one of my favorite albums by them, the sell-off was not lightly undertaken.

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      • JT says:

        Any chance of a Revo rip of Strange Too (coupled with Strange, perhaps) before you dump it? I’ve never actually seen it…

        Also, yeah, Notorious was heavily derided upon release, but in the fullness of time, I deem it second only to Rio… even if the mix is so incredibly dated (it reeks of 1986 now and forever). But I’m sure you covered this in a GPA. I’ll have to go review that one!

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          JT – Well, I have the first version of “Depeche Mode The Videos 1986>98” DVD as well as the “Best Of Depeche Mode CD/DVD” combo from 2006. The latter was the first DM I’d bought since the “World In My Eyes” single in 1990! Looks like “Strange Too” has a few unique clips; “Clean” and “Halo,” my favorite song from that album. Hmmm. Do I have a tape of “Strange?” [checks] Yes! One of the few VHS in the video cabinet that has not been opened in over a decade. Could happen, but don’t hold your breath. I need a new hard drive to digitize video as well as the time to do it. Not likely any time soon.

          Yeah, “Notorious” is second to “Rio” and on some days, it smokes it for lunch. “Rio” is great, but “Notorious” is the most cohesive album that they ever made and mix or not, there’s not an ounce of fat on it to my ears. the deep cuts are amazing. Almost as amazing as the deep cuts on “Big Thing,” but “Notorious” has no blunders like the latter’s egregious title track.

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  2. Echorich says:

    I have to agree, there were so many other directions that the Big Music cover art could have taken. As the album is filled with a lot of aural forward motion, harkening back to SAF/SFC and E&D, I would have been much more satisfied with a visual/photographic representation of that musical motion. The “official” video for Blindfolded by Damien Reeves captured EVERYTHING I’m getting out. This is where they should have taken their cue. The cover as it is just too literal and, as you point out Monk, derivative.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Welcome back! Ironically, the booklet inner images take exactly the direction that you speak of. So close, and yet so far…

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      • Echorich says:

        That figures…oh, and that band photo on the back of the cd looks more like they are entering a Mixed Martial Arts arena rather than a music arena…

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