One of the most striking album covers of the early 80s is for The Blurred Crusade by the Church. The record, named after a line in the song “You Took”, was the band’s second full-length and was a collection of jangly, poetic, and powerful guitar-based rock. The music featured more varied textures than many of their contemporaries and this album in particular displayed the rapidly developing songwriting skills of singer/bassist Steve Kilbey.
The cover painting – a group of knights looking at a colorful bird – was commissioned from artist Paul Pattie by the band. Pattie had also done the US/UK version of the cover of their previous album, a painting of a statue of a fallen angel, broken into multiple pieces. That cover, however (which always looks sort of like a high school art class painting to me), barely hinted at what would be achieved with The Blurred Crusade’s cover.
The image on The Blurred Crusade illustrates the title in a way that makes the viewer think. It captures a moment, as if we’ve just walked in on an unfolding story. Perhaps the knights were on a crusade and came upon the bird, distracting them from their purpose, their mission blurred by the beauty of nature. Kilbey says via email that he sees the cover in a similar way, as showing “the juxtaposition of beauty and war”.
Paul Pattie, the artist, paid a lot of attention to composition. The way the sharp points of the helmets echo the shape of the bird’s beak, the blue of the armor tying into the same shade of blue on the bird’s back. All blurring the lines between hard and soft, reality and dream, nature and the machinations of war. The vibrancy of the colors and the incongruousness of the situation pictured give it a surreal feel, which ties into the surreal element in some of Kilbey’s song lyrics.
It’s hard to find much about Pattie on the Internet. It seems he was an airbrush artist in New Zealand in the late 70s and an acquaintance of Crowded House’s Neil Finn. In 1982, the same year as The Blurred Crusade, he created the cover for Cowboys and Engines, by the band Zoo (previously known as Pop Mechanix). He then became involved in animation and worked on many movies and TV shows as a background artist, including Disney’s Aladdin films. He also illustrated children’s books with titles like Bananas in Pyjamas.
Album cover art was just a short, temporary stage in his career, but he gave us a memorable cover that works with the music on the album and succeeds on its own as well – no easy feat.
This year, the Church are embarking on a tour in their home country of Australia, focusing on their latest album, Further/Deeper and The Blurred Crusade. They’ve taken the original album cover art and modified it for the tour poster: