MGMT's new album, Congratulations, comes out in April! We're excited. MGMT's 2008 debut album, Oracular Spectacular, was fantastic, and we can't wait to hear what they've got in store for the follow-up. We're positive it will be awesome, as those weird-ass kids are only going to get weirder as they go along. Hey, let's whet our appetites by having a sneak peek at the album cover, shall we? That's it up there.
Sweet fancy Moses. What in the holy hell is that shit? Is that the cover for an MGMT album or a poster for an animated film about taking LSD in 1989? Don't worry, though, because even though the album cover is horrifying, the album will still most likely be wonderful. There are many precedents for great albums with hideous covers, eleven more of which follow.
11. Beck, The Information Beck's 2006 album was an interesting excursion in sonic experimentation; all of the instruments are either acoustic or digital, there are almost no electric instruments on the album. Coupled with the album's adventurous spirit was a novel idea for an album cover: a completely DIY approach.
The Information came packaged with stickers, which the listener was supposed to use to make their own personalized cover. The only problem: it was impossible to make a good-looking album cover with the stickers provided. Check out the many iterations on the album's Amazon page if you don't believe us.
10. The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America Why would an album of amazing, literary bar rock need a cover photo that looks like it was taken of the crowd at a Jonas Brothers concert? Guess you'll have to ask the Hold Steady.
9. Death Cab For Cutie, Narrow Stairs Where did the inspiration for Death Cab's welcome 2008 return to experimentation come from? We don't know for certain, but in Neal Stephenson's novel Snow Crash, there is a killer loose in the cyberpunk society's virtual, Second Life-like environment who kills by showing a picture containing a virus to users' avatars. Somehow the viral information is relayed optically to the avatar's real-life counterpart, who dies.
This album cover is what that picture looks like. Grab some tissues, your nose is bleeding.
8. The Constantines, The Constantines The Constantines' album covers have always been rather spartan, but none were more unattractive than their debut. You shouldn't be allowed to pick a random wrapper out of the trash, photograph it, and then just use that as your album cover. Especially not if you're as terrific a band as the Constantines.
7. Fastbacks, The Day That Didn't Exist Looks like a Rhino label repackaging of 1950's radio hits instead of the original, stellar collection of pop-punk it is. Completely undersells an underrated band.
6. Jimmy Eat World, Chase This Light A feather? Really? That was what you guys settled on? We almost didn't even listen to this album because we were afraid it was going to sound like early Cher.
5. James, Best Of If you're a dynamic, involving alternative-rock band, maybe having your grandmother quilt your greatest-hits album cover isn't the best idea in the world.
4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Isis The YYY's phenomenal 2007 EP was sweepingly gigantic stadium rock, even bigger than the previous year's Show Your Bones. It's hard to decide which collection was better, just as it was hard to decide which album cover was uglier, this one or the one for Fever To Tell. We ultimately went with this one, because Fever To Tell may have been busy and garish, but at least you could tell what the fuck was going on.
Are we underwater here? Under a microscope? And you're seriously just going to import that text from Microsoft Paint? Guh.
3. PJ Harvey, Rid of Me Well, there you have it: A photograph that somehow makes a soaking-wet PJ Harvey look unattractive. True, it kind of fits with the album's badass gutter-garage-grrl sound, but still. Polly Jean is way sexy, and we hate to see photos which pretend otherwise. Call us old-fashioned.
2. Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine Forget for a moment all of the pleasant memories you have associated with this album and just look at it. That is goddamn ugly. The color scheme is atrocious, and what the hell are we looking at, a bike tire? This looks like something Nitzer Ebb rejected. Trent Reznor would never release an album this horrible-looking again.
And last but not least, the ugliest album cover of all time:
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1. Phantom Planet, Phantom Planet And there it is: the ugliest album cover of all time. Was this done by layering the KidPix scribblings of brain-damaged children on top of each other? Did the computer overheat and catch fire while rendering the image and they had to turn it in at the last minute? This cover looks like an aneurysm feels. You'd never know that it contained a shift to loud, tough garage rock, defying (and exceeding) expectations following Phantom Planet's radio-friendly breakthrough album, The Guest.
Instead you'd probably think it was full of sounds designed to make war prisoners in Guantanamo think their brains were haunted. They could have each spat a mouthful of food onto a Jackson Pollack painting and come up with a better album cover than this.
You'll notice we barely even touched on the '80s, not to mention all the great/eye-raping prog rock albums from the '70s we missed. Leave your own favorites in the comments, but remember the criteria: The album itself must be great; its cover must be godawful.
Get to it.