I guess it’s official. Every band rips off Radiohead. Coldplay, Pilate, Delirious, Mute Math, Bloc Party, Keane, Muse, Interpol, Travis, Mew, Elbow, Snow Patrol, Starsailor, The Bravery, Razorlight, Doves, Oasis, anyone thats ever heard The Bends, and basically everyone else ever. If you and your scraggly indie rock band don’t sound like Radiohead, then you probably owe them some debt of gratitude for influencing the bands who influenced you (a dizzying game that if followed back far enough, shows that without a doubt King David did it all first anyway). Okay so—duh, brilliant journalism—people like Radiohead. Who gives a crap anymore?
Third Day does, apparently.
In a perfect reality Thom Yorke and Mac Powell would never make it into the same sentence. But in our reality they become bedfellows via the fickle parallel universe of graphic design.
Through the years, Third Day have had their share of cover art strikeouts and hits. Or maybe more like bunts. Join me below for a baaaad album art memorial…
Their independent 1995 self-titled release (later relreased on Reunion Records as the “bus” album).
Although you can’t really see, the fading sunset and bad clipart type is almost a perfect match for the Windows 95 factory wallpaper background.
Their 2005 Billboard topper (debuting at #8).
Part heavenly aura walking down golden roads, part advertisement for the discount bin at Winners, they try to convince us that beneath it all they’re just a badass gang from the mean streets.
Part 2 of Chronology, a Greatest Bunts collection.
Based on the following totally true conversation…
Mac: Hey what if we just stand there on the cover. It worked for Weezer…
Mark: Did Weezer smile?
Mac: Yeah I think so.
Tai: No actually I don’t think they did.
Mark: Who’s Weezer?
David: Well that’s cause they don’t have Jesus in their hearts. We do, so we should smile.
Mark: I’m not going to smile, remember how badass we looked on that last cover?
Brad: I’m gonna do like a half smile, y’all.
Okay this is actually the 1981 self titled release by a Christian prog-folk band of same name. And really I sort of think the cover is the best thing I’ve ever seen. Tunesmith Records was always known for bringing the hard rock Jesus Music you’d expect, but there were also some progressive components, some jazz-rock influences, and synthesizers on this record. From heavier tracks like “Covenant” and “Revelation” to ballads like “His Yoke Is Easy” and “He Holds The Sun” its pretty clear that they are the best the thing to ever come out of Weston, Ontario.
Anyway, these crimes pale in comparison to their most recent habeus corpus.
Exhibit A: Hail To The Thief
Graphic artist Stanley Donwood created this beauty with the help of Thom Yorke. You remember it right? Sold a couple copies, ushered in a new Radiohead era, brought them back down to earth a bit, started playing guitars that sounded like guitars again…
Exhibit B: Revelation (due this July)
One of two things happened here:
1. They saw Hail to the Thief on the racks during an acoustic in-store at Tower Records. Their first “secular” show in some time, they were a little dumbfounded by the small turnout. At one point someone in the crowd turned to a friend and said “Third DAY? I thought you said Kid A!?” Mac Powell overheard this and, after Googling the reference later at home, vowed to win the boy’s respect.
2. They hired an independent PR firm to assess their popularity, relevance, and street credibility. “What do you mean we have no street cred, we did that badass album cover and everything?!” In a desperate attempt for answers they decided to Google “all time critically acclaimed albums.” They closed their eyes, said a quick prayer, cast lots, and went with their gut.
It must’ve played out one of these two ways, cause assuming they even know who Radiohead is might be giving them a little too much credit.
Oh Mac, dear Mac. You’ve written some good songs, touched some hearts, sold some albums, and your new single is actually quite catchy. But this new album, unless it is the unthinkable sum of band member ignorance, reflects how out of touch your average fan is with the big ol’ outside world (and therefore unlikely to notice plagiarism). More out of concern than anger, I plead with you to re-evaluate the situation before this album hits stores. You are skating on the thinnest of ice, surrounded by one of the most unstable, devoted, over-analytical fanbases in the history of music (Radiohead’s, not your “Gomers”). You could ruin your witness, take quite a serious beating in the mainstream press, make us all look bad, and possibly ruin 5 or 10 years of serious CCM mainstream in-roading. Maybe we can get this sorted out and you can go back to doing what you do best. Writing pseudo-rootsy southern pop-rock, and convincing evangelicals to vote Republican.
Keep an eye out for future brilliant Third Day marketing ideas, including but not limited to: 7 minute radio singles, ditching their guitars for computers, going independent, pay-what-you-want downloading, and making music that doesn’t suck.
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