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The 50 Most Outrageous Album Covers

on July 25, 2017, 12:00pm
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50. Santigold – Santogold (2008)

santigold The 50 Most Outrageous Album Covers

While vomiting golden glitter is typically reserved for unicorns and kindergartners who just got out of art class, Santigold liked the concept proposed by designer Isabelle Lumpkin just fine. The singer told New York Magazine that her label was initially queasy about the shiny puke, but as long as they could see her face, they’d deal with it. –Erin Carson

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49. Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light (2012)

Spiritualized Huh cover

Spiritualized frontman Jason Pierce has said that the Huh? image personifies how the medication he takes for his liver disease causes him to feel. That makes the artwork a bit melancholy, regardless of how outrageous it is. Good thing the album is so uplifting. –Dan Caffrey

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48. King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969)

king crimson in the court The 50 Most Outrageous Album Covers

What could possibly elicit such an expression from the Schizoid Man? It has to be ghastly, but we’ll never know for sure. What we do know is that the cover was painted by computer programmer Barry Godber and named for a track off what wound up being a foundational record for prog rock. Godber never did another cover, and why would he? He probably got all his demons out in one go. –Erin Carson

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47. Jane’s Addiction – Ritual de lo Habitual (Clean Cover)

ritual The 50 Most Outrageous Album Covers

When certain retailers wouldn’t stock Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual de lo Habitual due to the nudity depicted in frontman Perry Farrell’s cover artwork, the band opted to replace the original cover’s busyness and bodies with plenty of white space and the text from the First Amendment (also known as the “free speech” amendment). If that subtle jab wasn’t enough, the band printed the following on the album’s back cover:

“Hitler’s syphilis-ridden dreams almost came true. How could it happen? By taking control of the media. An entire country was led by a lunatic… We must protect our First Amendment, before sick dreams become law. Nobody made fun of Hitler??!”

The joke on censorship, of course, is that the sanitized “clean cover” is actually far more outrageous than the original artwork. Take that, Walmart! –Matt Melis

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46. The Mountain Goats – Nothing For Juice (1996)

nothingforjuice The 50 Most Outrageous Album Covers

John Darnielle might mention an antique fire alarm in one of the songs on this early album. He might talk about juice, too. Maybe he even sings of a fire alarm that causes orange juice to rain from the ceiling sprinklers. Or maybe he just got the image from MS clip art. Keep in mind that this was 1996. Clip art was very respectable back then. –Dan Caffrey

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45. Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris (2007)

Era+Vulgaris

Josh Homme says that the light bulbs on the cover of Era Vulgaris were inspired by cartoons being used to sell bad things to kids (cigarettes, sugary cereals, etc.). So the graphic designers invented a couple of characters (Bulby and Stumpy!) to sell a Queens of the Stone Age album. “But why light bulbs, Josh?” Well, he’s gone on record saying that they represent “…what you perceive to be a great idea that really is not that great of an idea.” Kind of like this album artwork. If an animated character was going to sell something to kids, you think they’d be a little cooler. Maybe an animal or a leprechaun. To be fair, this seems to have all been done in jest, plus one of the light bulbs is at least dressed like a pirate (that one’s Stumpy, in case you couldn’t tell). Still, that doesn’t make this thing any less frustrating to look at. –Dan Caffrey

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44. David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant (2012)

David-Byrne-St-Vincent-Love-This-Giant

The cover of Love This Giant reminds me of Grant Wood’s American Gothic, only with farmhouse and pitchfork swapped out in favor of creepy plastic surgery. Eyes will first dart to Annie Clark, who appears to have a wire coat hanger planted firmly in cheek. Creepier still is David Byrne’s cleft chin because … David Byrne doesn’t have a cleft chin! Let’s just hope all this was achieved through the magic of Photoshop. I hear that stuff can even make Kim Kardashian not look like a hobbit. –Matt Melis

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43. Cream – Disraeli Gears (1967)

cream - disraeli gears

We imagine Cream’s album art conversation with artist Martin Sharp going something like this:

Martin Sharp: I want the cover to capture the sound of the music, warm and florescent.

Eric Clapton: Yeah, man, warm and florescent. Bright.

Jack Bruce: Bright colors, flowers.

Ginger Baker: And our faces peering out like florescent, majestic mountains.

Clapton: Ginger, are you tripping?

Baker: Why, do you want some?

In fact, we believe this is how many psychedelic album covers were born. The ‘60s were magical. –Katrina Nattress

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42. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam (2007)

animal collective - strawberry jam

The title of Animal Collective’s seventh studio album came to Panda Bear while flying to a show in Greece. His complimentary meal came with a side of strawberry jam, and, entranced by its glistening contents, he told his bandmates he wanted the record to sound like the jam looked: “something that’s really sharp and synthetic and futuristic looking.” It was Avey Tare that created and photographed the less than appetizing cover art. Let’s hope the actual inspiration looked a little more yummy. –Katrina Nattress

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41. Marilyn Manson – Mechanical Animals (1998)

marilyn manson   mechanical animals The 50 Most Outrageous Album Covers

Can shock rocker Marilyn Manson even register as outrageous anymore? I’m not sure, but in 1998, the cover of Mechanical Animals really freaked us out. I still blame Manson’s gray, anatomically bizarre alien bodysuit for both recurring nightmares and me failing my middle school anatomy class. –Matt Melis

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