Saturday, December 8, 2007

XTC’s Go 2: “This is a Record Cover.”

I recently ran across an all-time favorite album cover, XTC’s Go 2. It’s from 1978, and although the album’s music has not stood the test of time, the cover’s consumer postmodernism (or should that be postmodern consumerism?) has.

Below is the cover image, and for your reading convenience, further below is a larger version of the text (both adapted from Wikipedia’s Go 2 page). Enjoy.

This is a RECORD COVER. This writing is the DESIGN upon the record cover. The DESIGN is to help SELL the record. We hope to draw your attention to it and encourage you to pick it up. When you have done that maybe you’ll be persuaded to listen to the music - in this case XTC’s Go 2 album. Then we want you to BUY it. The idea being that the more of you that buy this record the more money Virgin Records, the manager Ian Reid and XTC themselves will make. To the aforementioned this is known as PLEASURE. A good cover DESIGN is one that attracts more buyers and gives more pleasure. This writing is trying to pull you in much like an eye-catching picture. It is designed to get you to READ IT. This is called luring the VICTIM, and you are the VICTIM. But if you have a free mind you should STOP READING NOW! because all we are attempting to do is to get you to read on. Yet this is a DOUBLE BIND because if you indeed stop you’ll be doing what we tell you, and if you read on you’ll be doing what we’ve wanted all along. And the more you read on the more you’re falling for this simple device of telling you exactly how a good commercial design works. They’re TRICKS and this is the worst TRICK of all since it’s describing the TRICK whilst trying to TRICK you, and if you’ve read this far then you’re TRICKED but you wouldn’t have known this unless you’d read this far. At least we’re telling you directly instead of seducing you with a beautiful or haunting visual that may never tell you. We’re letting you know that you ought to buy this record because in essence it’s a PRODUCT and PRODUCTS are to be consumed and you are a consumer and this is a good PRODUCT. We could have written the band’s name in special lettering so that it stood out and you’d see it before you’d read any of this writing and possibly have bought it anyway. What we are really suggesting is that you are FOOLISH to buy or not buy an album merely as a consequence of the design on its cover. This is a con because if you agree then you’ll probably like this writing - which is the cover design - and hence the album inside. But we’ve just warned you against that. The con is a con. A good cover design could be considered as one that gets you to buy the record, but that never actually happens to YOU because YOU know it’s just a design for the cover. And this is the RECORD COVER.

Again, this is not an album recommendation, unless you want to hang the cover on your wall. Go 2’s music pales in comparison to XTC classics such as Black Sea (1980), English Settlement (1982), The Big Express (1984), and Skylarking (1986). So if you want to explore the rich musical offerings of XTC (“one of the smartest—and catchiest—British pop bands to emerge from the punk and new wave explosion of the late ‘70s,” according to All Music Guide), start with those instead.

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