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Under the Covers battle

Albums of the year
By CAMILLE DODERO  |  October 19, 2006

Rock-and-roll beefs are never quite as delicious as the heat-packing rivalries of their hip-hop brethren. Mogwai guitarist Barry Burns publicly hates on James Blunt by posting online, “I have spewed blood down dirty toilets with more talent than him. Twat.” But rappers like 50 Cent and the Game know that launching a flaming war is wack — you don’t mean what you say unless you’ve got a firearm to back it up.

So imagine a world where Billy Joel is a machine-gun-wielding street hoodlum who tosses rocks at glass houses and fires rounds at Rick James. Where Ozzy Osbourne bites off Rivers Cuomo’s head and leaves behind a bloody body-stump. Where the Dead Kennedys’ logo beats Van Halen’s winged emblem with the missing leg of the hobbled dog on an Alice in Chains cover. That’s pretty much the hysterically brilliant mêlée that goes down in Ugly Pictures’s Battle of the Album Covers, a two-minute-plus short film in which classic album covers come alive for an animated artwork-on-artwork Monty Python–esque Celebrity Deathmatch.

Commissioned for an annual charity event in New York City called Battle of the Ad Bands, Battle of the Album Covers premiered on September 27 at NYC’s the Supper Club. “The reaction was so amazing — nobody could hear the sound because people were cheering so loud,” says Ugly Pictures’s co-founder Rohitash Rao. “Minutes after the screening was over, people demanded a copy. The next day, we tried to put it on YouTube and somebody had already put it on there.”

The short took three months to make, from scouring record shops for vinyl — Ugly Pictures didn’t want to use CD covers, “so that the film would have a very textural quality to it” — to choosing the musical victors carefully. “You couldn’t have Coldplay defeat somebody like Pink Floyd — nobody would have it,” Rao points out. “If Van Halen had defeated the Dead Kennedys, I think people would have protested. And there was no way that Weezer was going to win against Ozzy Osbourne.”

Another detail the creators mulled over was what object would come out of the famously bulging crotch of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. The head of Phil Collins from No Jacket Required? Insect-size, buzzing Van Halen logos? They opted for the Velvet Underground’s Warhol banana.

There’s also a snippet where the half-nude cover models from Roxy Music’s Country Life attack Encore-era Eminem with their private parts. “The funniest conversation we had was, what was going to fly out of the girls’ breasts? At one point it was going to be the lasers or bullets being shot out of her breasts, but then that was too Austin Powers.” They settled on having her nipples launch missiles. But then they needed to decide what the other model would pull from her lacy panties. “My partner, Abraham [Spear] said, ‘What about radial saw-blades?’ You don’t often hear that, ‘Let’s have radial saw-blades come out of a woman’s crotch.’ And I thought that was a great moment in our filmmaking history.”

The Battle of the Album Covers has gotten Ugly Pictures meetings with advertising agencies and ABC Family, and fan mail from Japan, but the production company isn’t scheming a sequel. “You just can’t surprise people again like you could the first time,” says Rao, whose company has done work for clients as disparate as Volkswagen, Nickelodeon, and Woolite. Instead Ugly Pictures is already at work on Chicks With Dick — an animated pilot for Atom Films about Dick Cheney and his army of baby chicks who “go around and save the world.” Rao adds, “It’ll be the exact same style of this film. As we speak, we are shooting baby chicks in North Carolina. We think it’ll be a good follow-up.”

Ugly Pictures |  | Battle of the Album Covers//

  Topics: Music Features , Van Halen , Celebrity News , Entertainment ,  More more >
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