|British band Hard-Fi have garnered some negative publicity after the cover art for their upcoming sophomore release, Once Upon a Time in the West, was revealed: a yellow field with the words “NO COVER ART” in large type. The band gave a statement about “breaking the rules” or whatever to the NME, but in fact, cover art that’s anti-cover art has been around for a while.
|First of all, the cover that seems to have directly inspired Hard-Fi’s art prank: San Francisco punk band Flipper’s 1982 release, Album – Generic Flipper. It’s the same Generic Yellow, and features a similar font; somehow, though, I imagine Hard-Fi’s new album won’t be quite as ground breaking.
|Flipper’s generic cover concept was said to have influenced Public Image Limited’s multiple covers for their 1986 release, alternately titled Album, Cassette, or Compact Disc, depending on the format. I even own 12″ Single, featuring an extended mix of “Rise.” Flipper returned the favor by later releasing a live album called Public Flipper Limited.
|Of course, the blank concept art-cover basically began with The Beatles; the 1968 release was designed by Richard Hamilton, who had put together a Duchamp exhibit at the Tate the year before.
|Wikipedia says The Damned was the first band to explicitly invert the concept with their Black Album in 1980, although there’s actually quite a bit going on here. More literally black covers can be found on later releases by Prince and Metallica; for a list of albums featuring basically blank cover art, check out this list here.
|Can we trace this trend back to Kazimir Malevich’s 1915 Suprematist masterwork, “Black Square?” The painting was placed in the position on the wall traditionally reserved for a religious icon, usurping the image of Christ; are blank album covers similar denials of their creators? Not that rock stars consider themselves Christ-like or anything.