Great Albums With Embarrassingly Bad Cover Art [NSFW]

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The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Mosquito is officially on the shelves, and our first impressions of the record haven’t changed much: we rather like it. The cover art, though… well, that’s an entirely different matter. We’re sure there’s some reasoning behind adorning the sleeve with a lurid pink giant mosquito sinking its proboscis into the ass of a baby (a baby with green lipstick on, we hasten to add), but until we know what it is, the album is going straight to the top of our list of great albums saddled by awful cover art. Here are some of the others!

The Knife — Shaking the Habitual

Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson told Dazed Digital recently about illustrator Liv Strömquist’s, um, eye-catching cover art to Shaking the Habitual: “It came out of the idea, ‘How do we use the area of the record cover in the best political way?’ It’s about bringing focus to extreme wealth rather than poverty being the problem of the world.” That’s as it may be, but it still makes our eyes hurt.

Teenage Fanclub — Bandwagonesque

Also on the eye-bleeding magenta front: the cover to Teenage Fanclub’s excellent Bandwagonesque, a record that as far as we’ve ever been able tell has had precisely nothing to do with the giant cartoon bag of cash on its cover.

Popol Vuh — The Best of Popul Vuh: Werner Herzog

The grand cinematic soundscapes of Popol Vuh are a pretty great match for the similarly grand cinematic gestures of Werner Herzog. Neither of these things are in any way evoked by the above cover art, which looks like it was knocked up by the design intern with a pair of scissors and a glue stick.

Beck — Midnite Vultures

A James Murphy sex doll wielding a lightsaber whip, the other end of which is attached to the crotch of a 15-foot-tall woman in skintight pink leather pants? Sure, why not?

Santogold — Santogold

Yes, it’s Santi White vomiting gold glitter. No idea what she must have been eating that day.

Outkast — Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

Outkast’s awesome debut album, from back before they were world-famous bazillionaires with lots of money to spend on conceptual record sleeves. It shows.

Spiritualized — Sweet Heart Sweet Light

Regular readers will know that we’re pretty much the biggest Spiritualized fans you’ll find anywhere, but this cover… well, it rather evokes the same question the artwork itself asks. Jason pierce explained to Pitchfork last year that, “The album was always going to be called Huh?, but I couldn’t for the life of me picture people going to buy it with that name… so I figured the best way to deal with that was to make the artwork like The White Album, where that name would travel and people would end up referring to the album as Huh? because it was all over the artwork.”

The Strokes — Is This It

Behold: the second coming of Smell the Glove.

Led Zeppelin — Led Zeppelin III

We’re really rather partial to Led Zep III — it’s the band at their most raw and bluesy, and it’s home to some of their most memorable songs (especially “Immigrant Song” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You”). All of which makes that cover all the more inexplicable.

The Beatles — The Magical Mystery Tour

No, wait, listen, we’re not saying the album sucks, just the cover art! Wait! Where are you going?

Thee Oh Sees — Putrifiers II

Seriously, this looks like something the kid who always sat in the corner in English class and refused to talk to anyone would draw on the inside of his folder.

Frank Ocean — Channel Orange

It’s called Channel Orange and it’s… orange! Geddit?!

The Jimi Hendrix Experience — Electric Ladyland

In fairness, Hendrix himself had nothing to do with this cover and hated it — according to the liner notes of the 1997 reissue, he wanted this photo, and wrote to the record company to tell them so. They duly ignored him and went with an image that drew Beavis and Butthead style guffaws from generations of adolescent male fans. (More information here, if you’re interested.)

Death Grips — No Love Deep Web

This is rather the opposite story to Hendrix — as has been well-documented, Death Grips leaked this record against the express wishes of their record company, adorning it with a dick for good measure. This is all very amusing in a juvenile kind of way, but at the end of the day, it’s still an album with a dick on the cover.

Tori Amos — Y Kant Tori Read

Or, more importantly, hire someone to design her album covers?

M.I.A. — Kala

Look, M.I.A.’s rather singular visual aesthetic is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, and we respect the fact that she’s defined such a strong visual identity for her work — it’s just that, like Shaking the Habitual, this kinda makes our eyes bleed. (We would have gone with MAYA here, which is much worse, except it doesn’t fulfill the “great album” criterion.)

The Dodos — Visiter

Hey, at least they spelled “visitor” right, eh? What? Oh.

Sebadoh — The Bake Sale

Perhaps the most singularly unappealing image to ever adorn an album sleeve, and one whose implications don’t bode especially well for the music within (which is a shame, because it’s pretty great).

Public Enemy — Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age

Seriously, where to even begin with this? It’s basically what you’d get if you let whoever does Iron Maiden’s cover designs conceptualize a hip hop sleeve.

The Beach Boys — Pet Sounds

And finally, a cover that’s so familiar and well-loved that you sort of have to stop and look twice at it, at which point you realize: it’s a pretty unflattering picture of the band and a bunch of goats. That shade of green is pretty awful, too.