Ex Die in Diem


Your Cover’s Blown

Never judge a book by its cover.

This is a great sentiment, I think: appearances can be incredibly deceiving, and it’s a good plan to limit the assumptions you make about things based on them.

I do think the metaphor could use some work, though. As any publisher or marketing exec will tell you, the cover is there to allow judgment of a book. I mean, looking at the cover is no substitute for reading the thing, but there are a lot of books out there, and only so many that I have time to read.

Getting back to the point, and indeed the ongoing concept of this blog, the equivalent construct in music is the record sleeve, or CD case, or album art, depending on your musical vector of choice. And these objects, like the covers of books, exist both to protect their precious cargo and to invite the buyer to pre-judge the material inside. In some cases, this judgement is ably facilitated by the cover designer (i.e. Sinner by Drowning Pool, sometimes less so (lazy example: The White Album. Either way, it used to be that this was the first thing a buyer saw when browsing in a shop.

Of course, music has a distinct advantage over literature in that it takes far less time to consume, at least on the first run through. This means that buyers may already be familiar with at least the singles from an album before deciding to purchase. Indeed, with the increasing prevalence of services like Spotify and Rdio, The buyer may have heard the entire album more than once, and only be buying due to listening limits or for portable play.

My inspiration for writing this post was not simply album covers, though. I realised that these judgements we make based on the packaging and design of the product are perhaps the least of the judgements we make about the music we haven’t listened to.

As an example of this, I would be surprised if I have listened to and enjoyed more than three tracks that have been in the top forty in the last two years. There are of course exceptions to this, but I now consider “is in the charts” to be a reasonable selection criterion for music that I don’t want to waste valuable listening time on. Similarly, there are bands that I simply refuse to give time to.

I was going to produce a huge list at this juncture, but decided that it would not be in the interests of my mental health to do so.

My concern is that this exclusionary attitude has deafened me to some music that I could have otherwise enjoyed quite profitably over the years. Of course, I do have an example at this stage, since this post has been composed in honour of a band I’ve completely ignored until recently purely because of their rather arrogant name.

Their name.

And the example are The Cure. Good band, lots of really enjoyable tunes, but I’m only just getting into them myself, so don’t expect any advice or insights from me. Instead, go find a band you’d always assumed were rubbish and give them a try. You might be surprised.

Until the next time, good night and travel well.

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