The Henry Rollins approved, The Cool Greenhouse have gone and picked some of their favourite record sleeves to share with us all. They also accepted our request to tell us a little more about the cover of their upcoming new album, ‘Sod’s Toastie’.
The Cool Greenhouse are one of the UK’s most respected observational post-punk voices and we were grateful to receive the news that a second record was on its way via the label, Melodic. With songs jam packed with A.I references, dry wit, and one-liners aplenty, we were excited to ask the band to get serious and give us the creative background of the band via our feature, Sleeves. There’s a strong chance they didn’t get serious but let’s see. Should be fun.
Hey The Cool Greenhouse, can you share a story from the artwork of your new record?
The Cool Greenhouse – Sod’s Toastie
At it’s inception, I envisaged ‘Sod’s Toastie’ as a kind of lyrical Turing Test, a collage of human lyrics interspersed with clippings from historic AI chat bots, with the challenge being to try and discern which were mine and which were the bots. This fascination grew from the realisation that late-stage, postmodern human literature and the first kinds of AI literature are strikingly similar – Facebook’s Bob & Alice (‘you i i i everything else’) or the twitter bot poet horse_ebooks (‘why does everything happen so much?’) often reading like Cummings, Burroughs’ cut-ups or excepts from Finnegan’s Wake. While most of it became human in the end, a lot of the lyrics were guided or inspired by AI writers (an inverted input-output of the usual algorithmic process) and snippets and shadows of lyrics influenced by AI poets and re-hashed still haunt the entire record. So it only felt fitting to give the cover art job to an AI painter. I asked for something kitsch and surrealist with oblique symbolic references to themes within the album (Toasties, UFOs, barren mental landscapes) and this was my favourite of the four million images she painted for me. She’s nowhere near as good as some of the robot painters that have emerged in the 6 months since (Dall-E etc.), but I like that her style already seems kind of outdated.
Thank you, now could you tell us about five record sleeves that have influenced you in life, emotionally, or in creative direction?
Country Teasers – The Empire Strikes Back
It’s a book cover! As a record cover!? “I can’t believe it. Whatever will they think of next!?” someone might say, flabbergasted and unnerved by such heresy, in a knitted v-neck in Welwyn Garden City (It could happen!). We did this sort of thing when we gave our ‘Crap Cardboard Pet’ vinyl a cassette cover, and more recently where we name the keyboard solo in ‘Get Unjaded’ a “Guitar solo!”. I like this kind of playful and resolute non-conformism, which the Country Teasers have in spades, and which I (Tom Greenhouse) probably partly learnt from them. The album cover (a real book about race relations and fascism in post-war Britain) perfectly ties together Ben Wallers’ infatuations with Star Wars and bigotry, which is itself a perfect example of their expert mixing of high and low culture, the silly and the serious. It’s their best album too, with ‘Spider-Man in The Flesh’ being the standout track.
Whipper – Shit Love
This is a great band from Melbourne that I (Tom O D) used to go and see play while I was living out there. I bought the 7” and the matching t-shirt home with me to London and it made me feel pretty cool. It’s also mastered by Mikey Young who does our mastering and pretty much every band from Australia too. Sadly I lost the t-shirt but the artwork brings back some nice memories. I remember seeing them and The UV Race at a pool party on New Year’s Day in 40 degree heat – it was top!
Magma – Kobaïa
‘Kobaïa’ is Magma’s debut album from the late ‘60s. Its concept involves alien civilizations, the end of the world, escapism, the duality of good vs evil, a desire for change, peace and harmony and it’s influences go as far and wide as Sun Ra, Coltrane, Stravinsky, Frank Herbert’s Dune and Nietzsche’s Zarathustra. The strong cover by Marie-Josephe Petit encapsulates the soul purpose of the work and always intrigued me (Kev), long before I started listening to Magma. The music is generally repetitive, not minimalist, usually finding a groove by Meister Christian Vander, and slowly altering itself to evolve in the lengthy hypnotic movements. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but remember: If you don’t like it, try again and again and again and again…
Kevin Ayers – whatevershebringswesing
‘No eggsplanation’ needed for this one, but here goes. Fell in love with the title track of this LP as a teenager. Back then no Spotify or Napster even but there was strange folk on the internet who’d list their entire record collections online and offer swaps for desired items from your collection. One time I (Chris) even got a load of 13th Floor Elevators bootlegs from Texas in exchange for a can of jellied eels. Anyway this occultist from the South West sent me a load of cassettes in this manner just before I went into hospital for a fateful jaw operation in Birmingham when I was 15, with an LP I wanted to hear by a band called Satan and his Deciples on the reverse. I listened to it over and over as I slurped my pureed mince and onions in hospital and dreamed of the little egg men on the cover thinking ‘one day, I’ll own that LP’. Actually I still don’t but my partner does and so nicked her copy for this piece. The imagery suits the music down to the ground, domestic and jarring, damp and somehow cosy, childish and in tune occasionally with some eternal wisdom.
Can – Tago Mago
One of those covers that becomes so intrinsically linked to the sound of the music. Mushroom head. Speak your brain. Would skive off and listen to this on headphones by request at Andy’s Records on Hereford day after day. Soon after was working in a factory next to the Royal Mail sorting office aged 16 and spending every penny I earned sellotaped to beermats and posted off to odd blokes on eBay. Never forget the day I popped to fetch the parcel from the post office and opened it up next to my mate who was another Can convert and there the majestic brain twitching man, behold. Hallelluwah!
Bad Velvet Underground, Bad Cluster
This pair occupy a special place in my (Chris) heart due to their exquisite music and perfectly atrocious covers. Both top class German school of design. The first is a really great compilation of Velvets and Nico stuff. Great mix of stuff including some Nico solo like ‘It was a Pleasure Then’ probably my favourite work from their whole musical constellation. I’m not sure what constellation inspired the sleeve design which just couldn’t possibly be more inappropriate if it tried, featuring a weird space lobster with sci fi ball bag, floating up above some kind of festering prog rock ocean planet. What on earth where they thinking. The second is an LP of perfection: Zuckerzeit by Cluster – unified sound, iconic cover design as Warmduscher will probably agree. And yet for some inexplicable reason they reissue it with an atrocious pun image candy dispenser sitting on a patch of concrete. And thanks to this, I was able to afford a copy on discogs. Dankeschön!
Thanks for sharing!
‘Sod’s Toastie’ is out 11.11.22 via Melodic. Pre order here.
The new issue of So Young is out now. Order your copy in print here or read the digital edition below.