Ugly Album Covers, Good Songs 1

Photo Credit: PopLlama Records

A saying I’ve heard throughout my life is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This might be true in some cases, but I think there exist others where this phrase actually doesn’t apply.  Sometimes, things are objectively ugly, and that is okay. My favorite genre of ugly things is album covers: visual representations of a musician’s artistry. In a way, album covers serve as unifying forces, representing the harmonic blending of sound and visuals — of music and graphic design: two different art forms that resolve their differences and work together for the greater good of music  distribution. With that being said, along with the extraordinary mingling of artforms often comes extraordinarily ugly album covers. Let’s start off by looking at one of the most iconic bands of the 1990s and 2000s: The Presidents of the United States of America.

Photo Credit: PopLlama Records

An alternative rock band formed in 1993, this musical group was made up of three members: Chris Ballew, Jason Finn, and Dave Dederer. Throughout their 21 year legacy, they released eleven total albums, allowing for the fruition of a mosaic of ugly cover art with their album lineup. Given the variety of album covers the Presidents of the United States of America have released, there’s one in particular that stands out amongst the others for its exceptional ugliness: “The Presidents of the United States of America: Ten Year Super Bonus Special Anniversary Edition” (hereby referred to as “POTUS” by POTUS). 

Firstly, what makes an album cover ugly? I’ve created three categories to ensure as unbiased a review as possible: colors, subjects, and fonts. These three categories are graded on a descending scale of ugliness, ranging from wholeheartedly ugly (three points) to medium ugly (two points) to just ugly (one point). Referring to the “POTUS” album, we’re dealing with a humanoid figure, frog, and standing cat (subjects) playing instruments in a black and orange scene (colors), accented by the album title in a typewriting style (font) over a white and green background (colors, part two). While the bright colors themselves are endearing, when intermingled with the anthropomorphic yet animalistic instrument-playing figures, they produce an inversely synergistic effect, working together to contribute negatively to the aesthetics of the album cover. Thus, I’d have to label both the color and figure categories as wholeheartedly ugly (totaling six points). Reviewing our third album cover criterion—font—I find that, while objectively ugly, the typewriter font does NOT synergize with the other criteria to increase the ugliness of the album cover, nor does it itself necessarily contribute to the overall ugliness of the cover, thereby earning it the rank of just ugly. Averaging together the rankings, I’ve come to the conclusion that “POTUS” by POTUS is a medium ugly album cover, with an overall score of 2.33. 

In order to be qualifiable for the “Ugly Album Covers, Good Songs,” title, the meat of the album must be juicy. Similar to the visuals of the album, I’ve created three categories with which I can unbiasedly rate its music: lyrical quality, capability of invoking  nostalgia/modernity/futurism, and catchiness. Again, these three factors contribute to the overall harmony and quality of the album. The average of these rankings for each song has divided the track list into the following categories of descending good-ness: wholeheartedly good, medium good, and just good. Here is my categorization: 

Wholeheartedly Good (three points):

·      Kitty

·      Peaches

·      Naked and Famous

·      Feather Pluckn

·      We Are Not Going to Make It

·      Kick Out the Jams

·      Carolyn’s Booty

·      F**k California

Medium Good (two points): 

·      Stranger

·      Boll Weevil

·      Body

·      Candy

·      Candy Cigarettes

·      Back Porch

Just Good (one point):

·      Wake Up

·      Puffy Little Shoes

·      Confusion

Averaging the quantity of songs in each category, the tracklist for “POTUS” by POTUS has earned the label of medium good, with a score of 2.29. Under the category of Ugly Album Covers, Good Songs, I’ve subcategorized “POTUS” by POTUS under Medium Ugly Album Covers, Medium Good Songs. While I’ve concluded my analysis of this historic album, I want to explore the question: is there a lesson behind all of this? I started this article with one famous saying and now I end it with another: don’t judge an album by its cover. Yes, that is, indeed, one takeaway from this article. But I urge you to dig deep within yourselves to find the others. 

1 Comment

  1. this article is the most well-thought and articulated article that I have ever read in my life and this is the content that I have been looking for. I impatiently await your next ugly album cover post.

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