INXS – X
The artwork for X kind of looks like a promotional poster for a superhero film, which probably says a lot about INXS’s world domination at the time of its release in 1990. The cover art was shot by acclaimed New York music photographer Michael Halsband and designed by art director Nick Egan, who also worked together on the killer cover for Iggy Pop’s Blah Blah Blah. Sure, it might look a bit cheesy by today’s standards, but you can’t deny that X still pops a lot harder than a lot of other album covers of the era.
Frenzal Rhomb – Not So Tough Now
Definitely one of the more tongue in cheek examples of artwork to pop up on this list, Frenzal Rhomb’s Not So Tough Now just might be the band’s best album cover that isn’t Dick Sandwich. The image, which depicts a recently demolished McDonalds restaurant, was taken by award-winning photo journalist Gordon Baer, whose work appeared in Time Magazine, National Geographic and the New York Times. There’s obviously probably some anti-capitalist sentiment behind this one, but it’s also just a bad ass album cover, and a sick record to boot.
Deborah Conway – Bitch Epic
Following on from the success of her 1991 full-length effort String of Pearls, Deborah Conway was looking to take things to the next level with her follow-up, and what resulted was undoubtedly her strongest release ever. 1993’s Bitch Epic proved that Conway was a force to be reckoned with in all creative departments, with the album artwork being one of the most memorable of its time in Australia. Who else would have the nerve to get stark naked and smother themselves head-to-toe in Nutella for their own album cover? Needless to say, there were no surprises when Bitch Epic won the ARIA Award for Best Cover Art in 1993.
Regurgitator – Unit
This one’s as iconic as they come. Recorded in a filthy Brisbane warehouse and released unto the world November 1997, Unit was a huge success for Regurgitator, and is commonly regarded as one of the greatest Australian albums of the ‘90s. There’s a fair chance that a lot of that acclaim stems from Unit’s instantly recognisable minimalist album artwork; designed by the band’s own Ben Ely and Quan Yeomans and Janet English, the latter two being credited as ‘The Shits’, which snagged an ARIA for Best Cover Art in 1997.
Jebediah – Slightly Odway
Jebediah’s debut Slight Odway was a huge Australian release in the tail end of the ‘90s, with standout tracks like ‘Harpoon’ and ‘Leaving Home’ establishing it as a hit with listeners and ensuring the band’s success for years to come. However, what really sticks out about the record today is the striking cover artwork, a painting of a UFO looming ominously over a lawn bowls green. The orange and green hues of the artwork, as well as the futurist image of the flying saucer and typeface used, helped to establish Slightly Odway as being a visual treat just as much as it is one sonically.
Yothu Yindi – Tribal Voice
Best known for featuring the smash hit ‘Treaty’ and introducing the world to the talents of the late great Dr. G Yunupingu, Yothu Yindi’s Tribal Voice was a hit record both at home and abroad. For many international listeners, the record served as an intriguing introduction to Indigenous culture, as was the album’s artwork, designed by Mushroom Art’s Louise Beach. The Indigenous artwork superimposed upon a body of water made for an inviting introduction to a culture rich in history and heritage, which unsurprisingly won the ARIA Award for Best Cover Art in 1992.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Let Love In
There’s a lot of great Nick Cave records, and there’s probably just as many good Nick Cave album covers out there. However, if we’re limiting ourselves to the ‘90s, nothing trumps the artwork for Let Love In, his 1994 effort with The Bad Seeds. It’s obvious that Cave is going for a bit of a Hunky Dory-era Bowie vibe here, and it’s a tribute that certainly works in Cave’s favour: the pink and red tones of the backdrop contrast his pale, contoured frame wonderfully, and the colourful hues of his mullet (it definitely is a mullet) makes for a ravishing, almost regal aesthetic.
Divinyls – Underworld
The final album from Australia’s beloved Divinyls often cops a bad wrap by listeners, but in retrospect, it definitely showcases a unique side of Chrissie Amphlett’s songwriting. Slated for release in 1995 to capitalise on the success of lead single ‘I’m Jealous’, Underworld was maligned with production issues that delayed its release until 1996 and somewhat botched the success of the record. However, if there’s a saving grace about Underworld, it’s the killer S&M-influenced album artwork, shot in black-and-white by Brisbane punk photographer Jasmine Hirst. Spooky, sexy stuff.
Powderfinger – Internationalist
Internationalist is one of Powderfinger’s most loved albums, mainly due to tracks like ‘Passenger’ and ‘The Day You Come’, and it’s backed up with what’s easily one of their best album covers (probably just behind Odyssey Number Five). The ARIA award winning album artwork was handled by Michael Mucci, who also worked as the illustrator for the Sydney Morning Herald before sadly passing away last year. It’s 100% worth getting a copy of this record to check out some of the work on the back cover and in the CD booklet – Mucci was a master of his craft, there’s no denying that.
Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mining
You can’t get much more of a poignant example of album artwork than Blue Sky Mining. Midnight Oil’s 1990 opus delved into the story of Western Australia’s Wittenoom Mine, where over two thousand workers and nearby civilians died of issues related to blue asbestos exposure. As such, it was only apt that the Oils opted for a stark album cover to reflect the tragic tale, with Blue Sky Mining’s artwork depicting a lighting bolt slicing into a scorched and barren earth. The striking artwork would help Blue Sky Mining sell over two million copies worldwide, with the album now being recognised as an Australian all-time classic.
In the mood for some more nostalgia? Discover some of our favourite rave tracks from the ’90s.