While Dev Hynes aka Lightspeed Champion was a member of now-defunct noise-punk metal outfit Test Icicles, Lightspeed Champion isn’t so much an alter ego as much as it is just Dev, the crafty singer-songwriter. His debut album, Falling Off The Lavender Bridge, is Americana-tinged country-folk-pop with a warm sound helped along by producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley), and it is as straightforward musically as is the accompanying cover art.
But underneath the music are emotionally-charged and brutally honest lyrics touching upon racism, sexuality, and coming-of-age anxieties; and the same contrast goes for the package with a rather traditional, 1960s-style aesthetic for the front and back, with an inside that is a more complicated collection of collage and illustration.
The front recalls a bygone era of cover art with the artist as the central figure accompanied with snazzy colours, an”Artist” and “Title” heading, and a tracklisting — almost like a program for a concert or play informing the listener exactly what is included and presenting the album as a whole, complete work.
I found some images on Amazon and in the Retro Records group on flickr, that share the same sort of essence as this album.
You get the feeling Dev is referencing this look with a wink, especially with the big-eyed bunny, bright red cardigan, freshly starched shirt, and slightly askew gold bow-tie. An indie-rock Pat Boone who writes songs entitled “Everyone I Know Is Listening to Crunk”?
Elvis Costello’s covers and personal style are a nod to that era as well, especially his Greatest Hits with song titles alongside the front.
The cover photography of this album and the single “Galaxy of the Lost” were shot by British photographer Ophelia Wynne and seems indicative of her sharp and direct portraiture style that is featured on her website.
The booklet veers off a bit in its own direction with more contemporary photography by Dev in the front part. The last five booklet illustrations by Matt Cooper recall a future we thought was coming back in the 80s accompanied with lyrics in a Courier font from early computing days.
The back cover of the booklet gives us what seems like the “real” Dev in an vest probably found at a second-hand shop.
And the back of the case gives us the flip side of the front with the red, blue, and black combination and title giving a feeling of closure to the album.