Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Dead Weather - art and (witch)craft

Now I'm the proud possessor of a 7" single by The Dead Weather, I'm able to look at their famous cover art in detail. It's a picture I've seen before on their website, Alison Mosshart (I assume from the jaw and the boots) lying on her back with her knees raised and legs akimbo, shot from a couple of yards away at a between-the-feet angle that gives a clear view of that wonder of the modern world, the crotch seam of a pair of jeans, the strength and durability of which led to the worldwide adoption of jeans, initially as work clothes and increasingly as leisure clothes. [And an ObUl.]

It sounds like it might be prurient, but she doesn't look as though anyone else is invited to her private party, so I guess not. The relationship between the text – treat me like your mother – and the pose didn't initially come to mind. I'd never seen my mother in that position. Then, it dawned on me I had – about thirty seconds after I was born. This revelation seemed deep at the time, but in my defence I had a nasty fever that day. Thinking again, it seems unlikely that a bunch of drunk rockstars came up with anything so Oedipal (or sick, depending on your pov). Someone was probably just looking at grungy B&W photos and this one stood out for its abandonment.

It's actually much greyer than this. I punched it up, otherwise a small web photo of it would look like a picture of a dirty tea towel on a tiled floor. The back appears to be a view of a row of books (from above) with dark hardcovers and gold-edged pages, but it could be anything really. A pile of film cans?

The cover art for the album, Horehound, tells an interesting little story.

The front cover shows Mosshart as a woodland witch. Presumably too mean, or just too short-tempered, to build a gingerbread house and entice you the traditional way, she's simply hiding in the willows by a stream. Either way, if she catches you, you're going to end up in the oven.

But open the gatefold (vinyl album only, alas) and you see the rest of the story.

Jack White has saved you.

At least that's my current reading. I know they've seen Spinal Tap, so they must know the plain reading of the cover falls on the wrong side of the fine line between stupid and clever (as Spinal Tap's Smell The Glove famously did). And when you have a frontwoman as powerful as Alison Mosshart, under most circumstances showing one of the band silencing her voice would be a negative image. Imagine Robbie Robertson doing this to Bob Dylan on an album cover. Or Mike Joyce gleefully strangling Morissey.

So let's go with the positive image of The Dead Weather saving your ass from a mistimed strike by their Medusa, shall we?

I haven't actually played my lovely new single as I couldn't figure out how. I must never have bought a vinyl single in 20 years in the US. They have great big punch-outs in the middle. In the UK, these were filled with a plastic adapter before they were sold, unless you bought ones intended for juke boxes. Here, not so much. When the man of the house came home he showed me the record player comes with its own adapter. How clever. My excuse is I'm still groggy from the dreaded myxomatosis or whatever it is I've had.

(See also next post for more art.)

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