Tuesday 26 January 2010

2 months = 940

Another 940 civilians have died in Iraq as a result of the US/UK war and occupation since I last posted this image on 27.11.09.

How does it feel Tony? Somehow I doubt the £2000-a-minute man will get asked this question on Friday.

Iraq Body Count
The Iraq Inquiry
Blair's big day out
Previous post

Friday 22 January 2010

Design 4 Music

It is really annoying that I can't make it to the 'Design 4 Music, Music + Design' conference at St Bride Library next week. Unfortunately a previously cancelled training session and a very important meeting at work prevent it. I hope it's the first of many. If any Dublog readers make it, please send in reviews.

More details on Eye Blog and Reasons To Be Cheerful.

Saturday 16 January 2010

Sleeve notes

After my last post about my remixing Royal Mail's album artwork stamps, and prompted by a discussion on the excellent Reasons To Be Cheerful blog, I raided my vinyl collection in the loft to try and discover who designed Big Black's record sleeves. Since first buying Songs About Fucking on its release in 1988, and in subsequent years replacing worn out cassettes with vinyl copies of The Hammer Party, Atomizer and Pig Pile, I was convinced the same artist must have designed all four sleeves. However, in typical obtuse style, the Steve Albini written sleeve notes on the first three releases (Hammer, Atomizer and Songs) give absolutely no indication as to who created the illustrations, although there are photo credits. Pig Pile does credit a L M Owen for the front cover artwork though. However, my assumptions appear to have been wrong as various forums and websites suggest that Albini himself produced the artwork for the earlier releases - one claiming that he was a graphic designer before he formed Big Black. That said, many forums have mentioned that the illustration for Songs About Fucking is directly lifted from a Japanese comic book which seems entirely plausible.

Steve Albini as graphic designer would seem fitting because there has also been a keen attention to detail in the packaging of his musical output since Big Black's demise. Rapeman's Budd has a die-cut front sleeve so that the inner sleeve shows through and Two Nuns And A Pack Mule has a perforated rectangle (on the back sleeve I think) that, while it appears to serve no purpose, can obviously be 'punched' out. Shellac's At Action Park is beautifully hand printed on heavy duty uncoated card that reflects the heavy duty vinyl used to make the actual record - the LP is noticeably heavier when weighed alongside other vinyl releases of the day. Likewise, 1000 Hurts (the CD version at least) is packaged in a mock reel-to-reel tape box with graphics to match. Unfortunately, only having a digital download of Terraform and as yet not having purchased Excellent Italian Greyhound, I can't comment on their sleeves. Albini has a dedicated approach to the recording processes as well which fits with my theory that most graphic designers, or in Albini's case, ex-graphic designers, are anally retentive. Wikipedia states, "Albini prefers a very sparse, analogue recording sound with little or no overdubbing, and is meticulous about microphone placement and choice of equipment"

So, as well as having gone on a nostalgia trip this week, the Atomizer, Songs About Fucking and Pig Pile sleeves have now replaced a Barney Bubbles homage in my vinyl flip frames and now grace the landing wall outside our bathroom.

Reasons To Be Cheerful
Big Black
Vinyl flip frames

Sunday 10 January 2010


My reworking of the latest stamps on offer from Royal Mail

There's been much talk on the news about the Royal Mail's latest stamp collection - the best of British vinyl record sleeves. Well, it appears, as far as I can see, that these sleeves have been chosen for the popularity of the albums rather than the quality of the artwork - and from a Top Gear fan's record collection at that. OK, so London Calling is an excellent album and the sleeve is a good reworking of Elvis Presley's first release married to a chance photograph by Pennie Smith. But Hipgnosis' Pink Floyd sleeve isn't their best in my opinion and surely Peter Saville's Unknown Pleasures sleeve is far more iconic than the New Order cover on offer? And there are some massive omissions; no Mark Farrow, Jamie Ried, Malcolm Garrett, Vaughan Oliver or Barney Bubbles, to name a few graphic designers who's sleeves have enhanced great records.

So I decided to try and address the imbalance a little and present here some personal favourites of my own. They're not all British and they're not all albums but I'm afraid I couldn't resist seeing Big Black's 'Songs About Fucking' and Sex Pistol's 'God Save The Queen' next to our beloved monarch. I accept XTC's Go 2 would be too small to read and I propose the sandpaper of Durutti Colmun's 'The Return of the Durutti Column' should be on the reverse side of the stamp to fit in with its original context. And the eagle eyed will probably point out that Spiritualized's 'Ladies and Gentlemen…' is a CD sleeve but I include it here to disprove the point Pennie Smith made on Channel 4 News the other night: CD sleeves can be just as good as vinyl sleeves - it's not the format that's to blame if the design is weak, it's the imagination of the designer and the narrow minds of record company execs.

The sleeves, left to right:
God Save The Queen - Sex Pistols
Doolittle - Pixies
Songs About Fucking - Big Black
Dr Alimantado - Best Dressed Chicken in Town
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space - Spiritualized
Go 2 - XTC
Do It Yourself - Ian Dury and the Blockheads
The Return of the Durutti Column - Durutti Column
The Correct Use of Soap - Magazine

The original Royal Mail versions