Wednesday, April 9, 2008
There are certain album covers that tell you all you need to know about the artist and their music. It doesn't matter if the albums these particular photographs grace are the best or the worst in the artists canon, there is just something about their covers that seem to absolutely define them.
Whether it is Lou Reed holding a mirror up to himself on the cover of The Bells or Marc Bolan hazily staring straight into the camera on T. Rex's The Slider, certain shots just nail it.
I feel that way about the cover shot of Alison Goldfrapp on the cover of Goldfrapp's recently released Seventh Tree. The album itself is a mesmerizing experience that returns the group to the silent and eerie splendour of their first platter, 2000's Felt Mountain. Honestly, I am not sure where I would rank Seventh Tree yet in relation to the rest of their catalogue but it is a wondrous work and the cover shot of Alison has totally bewitched me. The last time I remember being so struck by an album cover was over a decade ago when Bowie's Earthling came out.
Everything I love about Alison Goldfrapp can be seen in this photo. From the defiant follow me if you dare stare to the Napoleon hat sitting on top of her head. It's a beautiful and bold shot that invites her fans to keep following her, but the intense and near crazed look in her eye states strongly that she will go it completely alone if she has to. It's as bold and brilliant as the music inside, and a potent reminder to the power and importance of actually holding an album in your hands as opposed to just downloading it.
The special edition of the album is a thing of beauty in itself. Housed in a sturdy and thick hardshell casing with postcards, a fold out poster, a booklet of handwritten lyrics and drawings and a bonus DVD, Goldfrapp seem to be one of the last bands capable of understanding the beauty of the package.
The Seventh Tree will confound a lot of her fans and convert a lot more. It's unfortunate that the album was leaked online several months ago as no doubt it has hurt sales. It's an achingly beautiful and strange collection of psychedelic balladry with more than a touch of The Wicker Man, Syd Barrett and William Blake thrown in for good measure. Whether it ranks among her best work remains to be seen but it is absolutely a splendid addition to one of modern music's most impressive catalogues.