Known Johnson

March 28, 2007

Neil Peart’s latest essay and the cover art “controversy”

Filed under: General — Tom @ 8:05 am

Man, it’s been a week of Rush news! Here’s one more little bit for the Rush lovers out there: Neil Peart’s latest essay about the creation of the album. I must warn you, however, that this is likely what will accompany the tourbook, so if you like to have that to read in that big glossy book we all pay so much for at each concert, you might want to skip reading this and save it for then. For those of us who’ve been salivating over the thought of this new album, it might just hold you over and help explain why they chose this ugly artwork:

Ugly artwork

Yes, yes, I get the tie-in with the theme of the album and all, but I really wish they’d done something creative with it rather than just plop the whole Leela gameboard on the cover like that. Very un-Rush-like, if you ask me. I was really looking forward to another typically surreal Hugh Syme cover. I guess he’s instead provided a bunch of his usual stuff for the rest of the package, perhaps artwork for each song, but I still want to know what this was going to be used for:

Original cover?

That looks like it was intended for use as the cover since there isn’t a song called “Snakes & Arrows” on the album, and the artwork’s being used by Musictoday on their tour pre-sale page and not the Leela gameboard cover, so it sounds like the idea to use what we know is now the cover was made pretty late – long after everyone had set up their sites (including Rush’s site, which has artwork revolving around the color scheme of Syme’s road/arrows/snakes and baby-carriage-on-the-pier themes.)

I’m a designer myself, and I can’t say for certain, of course, what exactly has gone on here, but I’ve had to shoe-horn in things that people have wanted well after everything has been finished and that’s what this feels and looks like to me. I’m guessing that Hugh had the road/arrows/snakes cover finished and Peart found the Leela board and the band demanded that they change it. Those kinds of things happen, and, as a designer, I’ve fought very hard to maintain the integrity and flow of the artwork as designed, but sometimes people just don’t see what we know is best and can’t see beyond what, as Neil describes in finding the Leela game in his essay, they feel is some kind of serendipitous discovery. What I find unfortunate is that Syme didn’t find some creative way of incorporating elements of the gameboard into the artwork rather than plopping it on the cover like that, but maybe they didn’t give him the opportunity either due to time constraints or maybe they just plain didn’t want him to. I don’t know.

But I must keep in mind that Neil does mention that he researches the album title and artwork to make sure that it’s somewhat unique, and Syme’s road/arrows/snake artwork really wasn’t. As Chris pointed out in a comment previously, it’s almost identical to Pearl Jam’s Yield cover, and I think the band probably would have gotten a lot of flak for that:

pjyield.jpg

So maybe it’s for the best that it’s changed. I just don’t like what it’s changed to. I have a feeling, however, that the tour merchandise is not going to revolve around this Leela board and instead will feature the enigmatic “circular snake surrounding arrow” found in the background of Neil’s essay (those of you who chose not to read, you’ll just have to wait and come back to see if I’m right.) We’ll see in a few months, but I’m betting that will be an icon for the tour.

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