BLAG., Vol. 14: Kreative Kontrol
My train arrived in New York City around suppertime, so I met my friend at his office while he finished out some work at a design agency. “Wanna tour?” he asked, as I threw my bags under his cubicle. A graphic designer-in-training, I enthusiastically obliged. The dotcom boom had hit, and everyone was high on the hog, pouring in treasure chests of media company moolah, trying to capture the attention and eyeballs of a new digital age.
We walked into a windowless room with several computers. One guy was working late, animating cartoon characters. “That’s where we make the Flash games,” my friend explained, as we exited the room. Then, in a low whisper, he added, “That was Rick Fork. You know, from Drive Like Jehu.” I snapped my neck looking back at that closed door.
As someone who heartily enjoys the Midas’ touch of John Reis, Rick Froberg basks in that shimmer, and, therefore, had a hand in some of my favorite records. On this BLAG, let’s talk about Froberg, the visual artist.
I mean, look at this:
Straight outta Juxtapoz:
Looks great on uncoated stock:
Feel that warm, familiar embrace of nostalgia:
Thematically strong, and an excellent use of the “Creative Fee” line on a major label budget:
And, now we get to Hot Snakes’ latest, and arguably greatest, Jericho Sirens.
The cover art isn’t bad – in fact, at a weekly record listening party I attend, someone remarked, “That record cover is cool,” and then later said, “This band sounds like My Chemical Romance.”
When I first saw this cover, I thought maybe it might have been Subpop’s in-house designer – whose work I really enjoy, but there’s a commercial appeal that’s just very status quo. It doesn’t have the offhand illustrative weirdness or vintage artifacts of your typical Froberg piece. Is the meticulously shot surfing image a stock photo? (Daniel thinks that could be bassist Gar Wood) Was the size and prominence of the Subpop logo a contractual obligation? (Froberg's known to overstate mundane boilerplate items) I miss the hand-drawn over this san-serif, inputted type, with the only typographic flair on the insert: the liner notes being repeated and rotated every tubular 90 degrees.
At least they splurged on shiny. That’s a nice touch. I like shiny.
Design Trends that Need to Retire Now
1) Alphonse Mucha meets Pushead. Unless you’re Baroness, in which you completely own that aesthetic, and, as captain of the ship, must go down with it.
2) Runes as a band logo. This is about as contrived as farm-to-table restaurants and craft beer bars using a thin-ruled “X” in their logo, like it’s a delicate NYHC logo. Put your Pick-up Sticks away.
3) Child-like Drawings. If it was done by your kid, that’s endearing and, as a father, have my 100% support on broadcasting that farther than the refrigerator door. If not, then you’re that NARC sycophant on Art School Confidential. And a poser.
You Should Buy these Musics at Sorry State Records:
Hot Snakes, Jericho Sirens LP (Subpop)
I’m pretty sure I’ve written enough about this record above. Musically, it’s fantastic, and all I’ve been listening to since its release. Definitely does not have a My Chemical Romance vibe.
H.C. McEntire, Lionheart LP (Merge)
I’m not too familiar with Mount Moriah, but I did see McEntire crush “The Star Spangled Banner” at a Durham Bulls game a few years ago. Anyways, this record came out weeks ago, and it’s not standard SSR fare – despite Kathleen Hanna’s heavy consultation in its production – but I keep coming back to it. With a voice that boasts like Emmylou Harris, the tempered arrangements hold back just enough tension to create a quiet album that’s starkly stirring.
Perverts Again, Friday Night Light LP (Total Punk)
Tangential to this BLAG, I picked up this record because the cover art grabbed my nuts immediately. It works for the band: a disaffected pop record with a foreboding frontman who wields weaponized sarcasm. He’s the kind of person that walks up to you, hands behind his back, and cheerfully says, “Let’s fight!” I’ll take that chance.
Various Artists, Typical Girls, Vol. 3 (Emotional Response)
Various Artists, Typical Girls, Vol. 4 (Emotional Response)
I was looking through my compilation section last week, and came to this conclusion that I rarely revisit them after a few years. Very few are consistently great, bringing hit after hit. However, these exceptionally well-curated Typical Girls collections certainly stand-out.