Saturday, May 16, 2009

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: Face off over the Manics sleeve

The ridiculous and offensive decision by supermarket chains to cover up the sleeve of the new Manics album gives HMV's quotemeister Gennaro Castaldo a chance to stress the youth club's liberal values:

HMV’s Gennaro Castaldo said: “It’s not the retailer’s place to censor the choice that it makes available to its customers.

“The fundamental difference here is that while specialist stores see music first and foremost as an art form, to be respected and appreciated, to supermarkets an album is no different to a tin of baked beans.”

It's not just Gennaro with an opinion here, of course. The supermarkets are keen to defend their decision to hide a figurative painting of a child with a birthmark:
Tesco say the painting, by Jenny Saville and titled State, is “inappropriate”.

Well, that's a firm and clear line, at least. Why is it inappropriate, Tesco?
But a spokesman admitted yesterday he did not know what the image depicted, adding: “We are a family retailer and we feel that it is the right thing to do.”

Ah, yes. A family retailer. Let's have a look at some of the stuff on that family retailer's website, shall we? How about the second-best selling PS3 game Dead Space, for example? Tell us about it, family retailer:
Strategically Dismember the Necromorph enemies - limb by bloody limb.

Ah yes. Fun for all the family there.

And then there's Assasin's Creed:
Experience the power of the Assassin.

Jerusalem, 1191 AD during the brutal times of the Third Crusade. The streets are bustling with activity, but in a few seconds, everything will change - all because of you, Altair, a feared Assassin.

Plan your attacks, strike without mercy, and fight your way to escape.

Experience heavy action. Use a wide range of medieval weapons, and face your enemies in realistic swordfight duels.

Ah, yes, smiting people in the holy land without mercy. You can see why a family who expects that sort of thing from Tesco might be shocked at the Manics album sleeve.

Doubtless Tesco would protest that there's a difference between a record on a CD rack and a bloodthirsty description of a computer game on their website, and they'd be right. Kids are much less likely to be wandering around the shop unaccompanied by an adult who can explain the difference between birthmarks and pretending to be a killer.

The Manics are not happy:
Manics singer James Dean Bradfield called the situation “utterly bizarre.”

He said: “We just saw a much more modern version of Lucian Freud-esque brushstrokes. That’s all we saw.”

So, should we be blaming the supermarkets, then? Maybe not:
Nicola Williamson, Sainsbury’s music buyer, said: “We felt that some customers might consider this particular album cover to be inappropriate if it were prominently displayed on the shelf.

“As such, the album will be sold in a sleeve provided by the publisher.”

Provided by... the publisher? So the label is actually behind the cover-up sleeve. You have to wonder if the record company hadn't turned up offering packets to hide the 'offensive' art from view, if anyone would ever have bothered in the first place.