Pearl Jam's "Backspacer." (AP Photo/MonkeyWrench Records)
At the recommendation of new Post pop-music critic Chris Richards, I'll get around soon to listening to all of "Backspacer," the Pearl Jam CD that drops/lands/arrives/roars-toward-consumers today (here's Chris's review). Thing is, at the moment, I'm more consumed with studying the cover art.
The beautiful nine-image cover for "Backspacer" was created by "This Modern World" cartoonist Tom Tomorrow -- aka Dan Perkins, the real-life name of the artist who is the real-life pal of Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder.
Of creating the "Backspacer" art, Perkins wrote on his blog over the weekend:
"My usual relationship to my art is that of a parent to a small child -- you keep an eye on them, you know what they're up to all the time. This is more like what I imagine a parent's relationship to grown children must be like -- they go out in the world and do all these amazing things on their own, and you kind of watch from a distance, trying to keep track of it all."
Like many alt-weekly cartoonists, Perkins -- who also writes on his blog: "I absolutely love this album" -- has endured serious cuts in his client list in the past year, including the Village Voice Media. (Note: This month, "This Modern World" returned to the Voice after a seven-month absence.). And his friend Vedder has been outspoken in his support of alt-comics. (We knew the man had good taste.) In March, Vedder's plea contained this passage:
"Cartoons are a great deal for alt-weeklies: they provide some of the least expensive and yet most popular content. Many times you have picked up Seattle Weekly, the Village Voice, Minneapolis City Pages or LA Weekly - just some of the Voice Media papers - and turned right to the cartoon section. Now that has vanished.
The only way this vital artwork will return is through a sustained outcry from readers. We have to tell editors at our local alternative weeklies that we don't want them to suspend cartoons; if they already have, we want them brought back. "
(Hold for applause.)
Alternative visual artists and popular music have a storied connection, of course. Among the most notable is R. Crumb, who has drawn scores of covers . And from Jim Flora to later "Saturday Night Live" comedian Phil Hartman, there's such a rich and long history of cartoonist/illustrators designing covers, of course.
But herewith is Comic Riffs' All-Time Top Five List of Album Covers by Cartoonists.
5. JOHNNY HART's Men of B.C. evolve into The Four Freshmen.
4. SHANNON WHEELER's "Too Much Coffee Man" amps up Bob Dorough's second album for Blue Note.
3. PATRICK McDONNELL's pets cozy up to Tchaikovsky (visually turning "suite" into "sweet.").
2. GARY LARSON goes "Doggin' Around" for Herb Ellis with Red Mitchell.
1. R. CRUMB's "Cheap Thrills" for Big Brother & the Holding Company. Here, Crumb explains why he chose to draw for friend Janis Joplin -- but NOT for the Rolling Stones. (Classic Crumb, this.)