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Cover Up! Or Down?

This week’s 15th anniversary of Astronaut brought about the usual conversations on Twitter – memories, favourite tracks, the mournful lament of those lost demos. Attention then turned to, what appears to me to be, a missing retrospective – the album cover. Good grief it is awful. I remember being appalled by back in 2004. Here was the great reveal of the return of our Fab Five, and yet they looked universally unappealing and dislocated from each other.

Which caused attention to drift further to another rather uncomfortable truth – the four albums released in the Reunion years have all had terrible covers. A poll ensued on the Cherry Lipstick Twitter page, the results of which are below.

Before this, though, we do need to have a quick peak at the other albums covers in the career. We know there’s no complaints about Rio, but some of the others need a closer look. Overall it’s not a very, err, pretty picture.

Take, for example, the debut album, when compared to Ultravox’s ‘Vienna’ LP, released one year earlier in 1980.

The following years rushed by in a blur of synchronised art, style and perfectly pitched imagery, all the way to 1986 and Notorious. Here is a perfect example of an album cover capturing the image and feel for a period and the album within. Then things take a left-turn into a strange world where nothing seems to fit.

In its own way, Big Thing's cover does fit its period. It's a day-glo mess of splatter that matches the clothes and hair the band modelled at the time, as if attacked by a toddler with ADHD. Liberty’s effort has apparently been designed by a sexually frustrated teenager, which is followed on Thank You’s lovingly constructed montage by a recently divorced 30-something living in a bedsit above a kebab shop.

Medazzaland snapshots the fractured, disintegrating, disjointed, unappealing band, which bleeds into a back cover that desecrates the Rio sleeve. [The reunion would airbrush this imagery from history]. Pop Trash continues a by-now common theme of not knowing what to do with the album’s name on the cover. The words ‘Trans Fat’ are easier to read on Medazzaland than the album title, while the muddled ‘Pop Trash’ word design is not used anywhere else on the CD.

And so to the 21st Century. The latest Cherry Lipstick Readers Poll gave this countdown of the worst covers:

4: Astronaut.

Perversely, this is the most popular of the 4. “Just boring,” said @andibararella. “Nothing interesting here,” said @jejxjx. “It’s the laziest most unimaginative way to do an album cover.” “I picked Astronaut as it’s so safe,” said @BitterMachines.

3: All You Need Is Now.

“Pointless,” said @madameduran. “So bloody DULL,” said @andibarbarella. “It’s tough to pick the worst,” said @JonnyW1969. “Why do they always try to be so clever?”

2: Red Carpet Massacre.

Well, I thought this would win (and so did Katy Krassner aka @CleverKatyK). “It’s the most polarising cover on the list,” said @EMcGeeeCle. “It looks trashy,” said @eva_ford.

1: Paper Gods.

Well there you go. The traditional Duranie deference to the new is shoved out the window as it fair romped home. “I recall my horror when I first saw it,” said @JohnArchbell. “I’m relieved I’m not the only one who hates the Paper Gods artwork,” said @dee_cooke. “It’s just awful,” said @TikiJon10. Some love came from @jejxjw: "The Paper Gods cover is pure genius! I love how they play with moments of their career highlights as disposable pop art stickers."

Which leaves us to remember and appreciate the wonders of the Wedding Album. A truly great cover, that has care, time and love poured into it. It celebrates, commemorates and unifies the band’s personal histories at the right time in the right way. Here’s hoping the next Duran album hits the heights we all want.

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