On Friday, Illogical Contraption began a mystical quest into the realm of the strange and the surreal, a quest to locate and identify the most astounding and cryptic items off of the covers of several 70's and 80's progressive rock albums. If you haven't read Part 1 yet, you should. The Roger Dean/Yes/Avatar connection was explored, Rick Wakeman was worshipped, and Van Der Graaf Generator gave new meaning to the term "Spaceballs". But there was oh-so-much more fantastical psychedelia to be explored!
Today we return for the second and final chapter of 'Nondescript Objects On The Cover of Progressive Rock Album Covers Are The Best Thing Ever' - to uncover, explore, but most importantly ridicule these highly-pondered, loftily-conceived, and poorly executed gems. Read on...
Today's entry begins with the artwork of watered-down flute-rockers Jethro Tull (right), who were undisputed masters of the Ambiguous Covert Art Item. That's right: Their frontman may have been a pioneer in the world of tights and codpiecery, but Tull managed to offend other senses as well.
Take, for example, Jethro's 1980 offering, A (below). The band is pictured in the cockpit of some sort of spacecraft (or maybe an airport control tower), with one of the most iconic nondescript objects of all time hovering above them. That's right: The "A". Trip out on that, man.
Never content to simply rest on their laurels, the Tull boys followed up in 1982 with another magical cover for Broadsword And The Beast (below). Ruminate as you will on the purpose and beginnings of The Homeless Butterfly Warrior, but I'll warn you now: Any attempt to make sense of his existence will be as pointless and indiscernable as an Ian Anderson flute solo.
Another prog band with a seemingly endless stream of ambivalent covert-art goodies is the mighty King Crimson. Check out the Sun/Moon Thing on 1973's Lark's Tongues In Aspic (below left) or The Blue Square With Random Red Line off of 1998's Space Groove (below right). Such vagueness inspires me.
Another classic: Krautrockers Gong blew everyone's mind with the release of 1973's Flying Teapot (above). Sure, the clear labeling of both The Flying Teapot and The Radio Gnome instantly negate said objects as "nondescript", but still: WHAT THE FUCK?
Below: Two more unexplained chunks of progrock effluvium worthy of closer inspection and/or praise -- Webbed Reptoid Hand In Cufflinks off the cover of Amazing Blondel's 1976 Renrock classic Bad Dreams (left) and The Can of Okra With Random Tomato off of Can's Ege Bamyasi (1972, right).
Italy is an entire country with both an insatiable hunger for trippy prog and inexplicable progrock cover art. Take Metamorfosi's Inferno, for one. Decked out with what appear to be Sad, Disproportionate Paper Dudes On A Snowy Landscape, Inferno inspires confusion, worry, fear, and at the same time, a strange euphoria. The entire gatefold offers more of the same.
You want more Italian prog? You got it!
How 'bout Palepoli's Osanna (below)? What the fuck is going on here? Dumbed-down Escher? Roman ruins? Even the title of the album itself has morphed into some sort of strange, nondescript object. Bravo!
Above: Another weird classic from the Italian Vault: Premiata Forneria Marconi (aka "Award-Winning Marconi Bakery")'s Storia de un minuto. Painted by a Sicilian third-grader? Perhaps. Facinating? Definitely. The cover of their album Per un amico is mind-boggling as well.
Below: You thought the face on the cover of that PFM album was creepy? Check out the dude on the cover of teenage Italian progsters Semiramis' Dedicato a frazz. Yeesh.
And finally, the last exhibit on the Italian leg of our tour: The self-titled debut album from Alphataurus. Bomb-Dropping Dove judges you!!!
Right: Geddy Lee/Owen Wilson
Of course, before we wrap up this trek, we'll need to head up to Canada to drop in on those chin-stroking purveyors of psuedo-intellectualism known as Rush.
God, I hate Rush.
But they do know how to construct a fine album cover, I'll give them that. I find the owl on the cover of Fly By Night absolutely captivating, and the subtle sexual symbolism on the cover of Counterparts is as sly as it is humorous. But we're looking for more abstract concepts here. Abstract concepts like the floating orbs on Hold Your Fire? Yeah, like that.
The shoddily-rendered landscape on the cover of Grace Under Pressure (below)? A hot mess, to be sure. But Rush never underestimates the intelligence of their fans. YOU get it, right?
The melting orb from Vapor Trails? A study in minimalism, visually name-checking both Jackson Pollock and Unicron. Brilliant.
But clearly, Rush's greatest conceptual masterpiece came with the release of Hemispheres in 1978. Creepy Naked Dude Standing On Brain? Check. Prim Guy In Bowler Hat With Cane Standing In Desert? Check. Mind blown? Check.
Reggae/prog crossover band Vulcans and their sole 1973 release Star Trek (below): The cover is a study in good, evil, outer space, and, um, HANDS.
I DO love me some Atomic Rooster, especially when it comes in a package featuring Contorted Chicken Standing On Earth With Spaceship...
But what about Nice 'N' Greasy? Jesus fuck, get a load of that!
All three band members, borne aloft on their own massive genitals, shooting lazers in space?!?!?! Yes please!
Released on Brain Records, of course.
Above: The Aggregation's 1967 pycho-prog classic Mind Odyssey, or as I have re-titled it: Dr. Seuss And The Revenge of the Acid Mimes.
(Not to be confused with German prog-metallers Mind Odyssey, who, for the record, know their way around a vague, poorly-constructed album cover as well)
Last but not least, we come to Gentle Giant, who has been featured here on IC several times in the past.
Along with writing and performing some excellent neo-Ren Faire heavy prog, these guys had a definite flair for odd, nondescript album covers, not the least of which being 1975's Free Hand (Peter wrote it up here).
Take a good, long look at that sucker down below. What exactly is happening therein? Obviously, some sort of heavy-handed (pardon the pun) attempt at symbolism is being made, with the vague allusion to bound hands representing slavery and the struggle for freedom or some such silliness, but all I get out of it is one thing:
That other hand is totally pulling a Marty McFly.
Am I right?
Finally, we have one last album cover, Gentle Giant's 1971 gem Acquiring The Taste. I guess there are a lot of ways this one could be interpreted, but I'm going to go with the most obvious route: GENTLE GIANT LIKES EATING BUTTHOLE.
Full disclosure here: The back cover of the same album reveals that the ass-like object on the cover is actually a piece of fruit. But whatever.
I just wanted to leave you all with the image of GG drummer John Weathers (right) sticking his tongue up your butt.
That is all.
Now that you're all sufficiently tripped out on proggy goodness, take 80 minutes out of your busy schedule to watch the BEST. GODDAMN. FUCKING. THING. EVER.
SPACE IS THE PLACE