A lot of the promo CDs that cross the river Styx and wind up at the fiery gates of the Guardian don't even have cover art. However, a good portion do have art, and a good portion of these have very bad art. Thus, we are blessed with the opportunity to snigger derisively at the poor choices made by everyone from major label mega-acts and their legions of artistic decision-makers down to the smallest DIY indie bands with ironic moustaches long before you lunge across the aisle at Amoeba, thrust a disc in front of your pal, and snort, "Would you look at this shit?" So it is with a sense of solemn duty — and the burn of coffee coming out of our noses from laughing too hard — that we open these storied annals with a double dose of new, bad, adolescent fairyland schlock: Hello Stranger's self-titled disc (Aeronaut) and Captain Ahab's After the Rain My Heart Still Dreams (Rave).
The Hello Stranger cover is overwhelming: spandex bodysuits, falconry, wolves, George Harrison holding a crystal ball, a lake of stars, a rain of diamonds, a sunset of blood, and the final nail in my temple — what appears to be Sammy Hagar jamming out in an Angel Flight polyester pantsuit in a crystal fire. To quote the girl in the bad acid trip sequence of Easy Rider: "I'm dead! I'm dead already! I'm dead — do you understand?"
If the original Captain Ahab ever wandered out of the pages of Moby Dick, his embittered, cetacean-obsessed ass wouldn't have anything to do with After the Rain, which is described as a "conceptual exploration of the rejection of identity." Ahab certainly wouldn't be fucking around with faeries, especially ones that look like a bad tattoo on a stoner chick from Hayward — to say nothing of cities in the clouds and unicorns. There was a moment in, say, 1993 when you could pick up a framed Boris Vallejo fantasy art poster at a Clearlake garage sale, put it up in your bathroom, and have it be funny and kitsch. That moment is gone. Slayer would never put a unicorn on one of their CDs. (Duncan Scott Davidson)