As the centuries-old saying goes, you should never judge an album by its cover. Here are 25 examples of amazing albums whose covers might – wrongly – put you off. Don’t let them.
Pearl Jam – 'Pearl Jam':
Vocalist Eddie Vedder was apparently so proud of the music on the Seattle rockers' 2006 album that he didn't mind what the cover was. According to bandmate Mike McCready he said, "'For all I care right now, we've done such a good job on this record... Let's throw an avocado on the cover.' Our art director goes, 'Hey, that's not a bad idea.'" Is it not, art director?
The Beatles – 'Yesterday And Today'
This album's cover – the band draped with plastic doll parts and meat – was so controversial on its release in 1966 that all 750,000 copies were recalled by their label, Capitol. McCartney reportedly described it as a comment on the Vietnam War and it does sort of work that way, but it was such a vast step away from their previous, tamer artwork that it put people off the music. Calm down, chaps!
Guns N' Roses – 'The Spaghetti Incident?':
When this covers album – the band's fifth studio LP – came out in 1993, NME called it "a bizarre mixture of swagger, nihilism and bad attitood which is as funny as it is exhilarating". Exhilarating is not what you'd think looking at this squelchy mess – you wonder whether someone's going to eat it, or if they already have.
Arctic Monkeys – 'Suck It And See':
The Sheffield quartet's fourth was packed with perfectly formed, loved-up beauties, but you'd never know that from the quite literally beige cover. Still, America still found its name offensive enough to cover up in supermarkets, so that's something.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – 'Electric Ladyland':
To be fair to Jimi, he asked for a different shot – children sitting on an Alice in Wonderland sculpture in New York's Central Park – but Track Records went ahead and produced this instead for his 1968 album. It's 19 naked ladies lying across a gatefold, holding his albums. Jimi found it cringe and record stores sold it turned inside out. Great success!
Simon & Garfunkel – 'Bridge Over Troubled Water':
Forget that the NYC duo's final album 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' was an utter beaut and you'd never pick it up based on its unsettling cover. Is Garfunkel stalking Simon? Is Simon trying to irritate Garfunkel by getting in his way? Why is he wearing such a toxic assembly of greens and browns? Did his mum cut his fringe? So many questions, none of them good.
Kanye West – 'The Life Of Pablo':
Kanye's seventh album was called 'So Help Me God', 'Swish', and then 'Waves' before it got this name. The first impression you get of the intriguing 19-tracker is artwork you'd assume was designed by a three-year-old who'd picked out a sickly orange, gone nuts for the Copy/Paste function, and added in an image by mistake. Wait, actually guys – this is genius.
Beastie Boys – 'Hello Nasty':
The NYC rap-rock trio's fifth album, from 1998, showed them packed symbolically like sardines in tin, in front of a sun, surrounded by darkness. There's a reference to the image on the album's second single 'Body Movin'', if that helps.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – 'Mosquito':
"Confusing, intriguing" is how NME reacted to the New York indie trio's fourth album in 2013. You could level only the first of those charges against its cover. It's sensory overload – it looks like Toy Story would if it had been written and directed by a horror superduo of Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick.
Beck – 'Midnite Vultures':
Beck's fourth album, which includes the brilliant, Prince-inspired 'Debra', was a triumph. Its garish, crotchy cover? Not so much.
Malcolm McLaren – 'Duck Rock':
Former Sex Pistols manager McLaren’s ‘Duck Rock’ mixed hip-hop and world music brilliantly. The cover, meanwhile, was an exhibit of what the world is like for people with ADHD.
Dr Dre – 'The Chronic':
This is a classic album – but if you're not aware of what packs of Zig-Zag rolling papers look like, you might mistake this cover's homage to weed for a vaguely maritime feel. Add in an anchor somewhere and you could probably display a taxidermy fish where Dre is.
Teenage Fanclub – 'Bandwagonesque':
Pitch-perfect, dazzling indie from the Scottish group, represented visually by a bag of dollars that looks like it was drawn on an IBM computer's 'Paint' program, on a background of blaring magenta. No thanks.
Led Zeppelin – 'III'
This is proof that, at the design meeting for this album's cover, Led Zep had a lot of ideas. Well done them.
The Beatles – 'Magical Mystery Tour':
You could say this one accurately represents the mad TV film it soundtracks, but then you could also say that the film was a sprawling, improvisational psychedelic mess.
Van Morrison – 'Astral Weeks':
The Northern Irishman's sublime second album is unique – unlike the double-exposure image of its cover. It's a well-worn artwork technique that seems to aim at a kind of noble profundity, and ends up looking like everything else.
Metallica – 'Master of Puppets':
Manic Street Preachers – 'The Holy Bible':
Some people love this cover, but on first impressions there's little about it that'd make you want to pick it up. Except for the reversed Rs, obviously. Those are fun.
The Verve – 'A Northern Soul':
This is meant to instil a kind of awe at the Wigan quartet – look how big they are compared to the door! – but it's the Queen connection that shines through stronger, and not in a good way. Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
The Beach Boys – 'Pet Sounds':
Aka 'Four Men Feed Goats In Drab Colours'.
Yung Lean – 'Unknown Memory':
The Swedish sadboy rapper was just 18 when he put this impressive debut album out – but it looks like a cross between a metal record and the soundtrack for the Final Fantasy videogame series.
David Bowie – 'Hours...':
Bowie didn't put many a foot wrong, but the cover for this 21st album is a lot: massive-collared, long-haired Bowie cradling a shirt-wearing, short-haired Bowie in the middle of a maelstrom of colour information and typography. It was released in 1999, so you can forgive most of it.
Animal Collective – 'Strawberry Jam'
The seventh album by the Baltimore pop experimentalists was idiosyncratic as they come. The cover was not.
M83 – 'Junk':
The French electronic group headed by Anthony Gonzalez put out their seventh album with the proviso that "nowadays everything goes so fast and everybody is kind of throwing away art in a certain manner." Hence the album titled after its assorted collection of random – but great – tunes, and the confused artwork, which looks like it wants you to throw it away.
Dwaves – 'Blood Guts And Pussy':
We've saved the best till last. The band's first Sub Pop album, which ran for an exhausting 13 minutes, 7 seconds, combined bitter humour with as much offense as possible. It was completely punk, but the artwork was branded so offensive that many people wouldn't listen to it. Shame.