Speak the instruction “Siri, show me a rock band having a midlife crisis” into your iPhone, and the cover art for Muse’s forthcoming eighth album Simulation Theory may well be the image your savvy virtual assistant selects.
In the super-stylised retro-futuristic neon hues of a ZX Spectrum video game, the Teignmouth trio are depicted as sunglasses-sporting cyber heroes, surrounded by fast cars, werewolves and spacemen shooting lasers. It’s all so pubescent it makes one ponder if Muse aren’t the first monsters of stadium rock to somehow remain frustrated virgins this far into a long career. If it all looks suspiciously like the art for Netflix’s hit 1980s-set sci-fi horror series Stranger Things, then that’ll be because it’s done by a guy who worked on the show, British artist Kyle Lambert. Because why bother coming up with your own cool aesthetic when you’re rich enough to buy someone else’s instead?
Incredibly, Simulation Theory might not even be the worst album cover art I’ve seen so far in 2018. Let’s have a look through the cracks in our fingers at some of the other contenders for most hideous sleeve of the year to date. Siri, show me a sick bucket.
Travis Scott – Astroworld
Nothing to see here, readers, just American rapper Travis Scott’s head rendered mouth-agape as a giant inflatable and depicted as the entrance to some kind of sexy dystopian amusement park, with a bunch of scantily attired models scattered about the place, including one stuffed into a Perspex box for reasons unexplained. Shot by American photographer David LaChapelle, this thick slice of WTF caused a bit of a stir because eagle-eyed observers spotted that trans model Amanda Lepore had been edited out somewhere between the first draft and the final version. And also because it is patently awful.
Neko Case – Hell-On
I can relate to this image actually, because I remember when I quit smoking sometimes the only thing I could think of to do to satisfy the cravings was to fashion three packets of Benson & Hedges into a sort of Indian headdress, then set fire to my shoulder. Or maybe I’ve got Neko Case all wrong, and Hell-On is in fact a concept record in stirring defense of the stubbornly unapologetic smoker, featuring songs such as You’d Never Catch Keith Richards Vaping and Gaspers Outside the Pub feat Nigel Farage. Hard to say because I haven’t listened to it and, based on this cover, neither do I wish to, to be quite honest.
Thirty Seconds To Mars – America
Topical textual state of the nation ruminations from Jared Leto’s alt-rock vanity project. Not content with just one stupid cover, America in fact comes in a choice of multiple stupid covers each featuring pointless lists of words ranging from most prescribed drugs to popular sex positions to highest-paid YouTubers and other such hot topics. I can think of a long list of words to describe not just this idea but Thirty Seconds to Mars in general, but they’re not really fit for print in a family magazine.
Jack White – Boarding House Reach
Oh dear. Soft-hued androgynous misery guts with stormy clouds for hair stares blankly into the middle distance. It’s all a bit portentous. It’s all a bit Enya. It looks like it could have been put together on MS Paint. What thoughts trouble our fed-up dreamer, with her head full of cumulus? “How did I let Jack put me up to posing for ages with a big bag of cotton wool on my head?” “Did I leave the hob on?” “Why is this album cover art so very, very bad?”