Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sleeveface - the Book

In which section of my local bookstore, I wondered, would I find Sleeveface? Music? Photography? Art?

Sleevefacing, in case you didn't know, is the practice of placing a record sleeve in front of your face to create an optical illusion. Sleeveface, the book, is a compilation of the best examples sent to Cardiffians Carl Morris and John Rostron - originators of the craze. Here you'll find wannabe Elvises, Madonnas and even a couple of Kenny Rogers'.

But this phenomenon goes way beyond mere celebrity worship. It's more subtle than that. Flick through the pages of Sleeveface and you'll soon discover a host of ironic, even iconoclastic, images. There's Elvis Costello doing a spot of vacuuming; John Travolta wearing fishnet tights; Gil Scott-Heron sporting a fetching pair of pink socks. Before your very eyes pop stars change gender, even skin colour - Barbra Streisand mutates into a dog. Untouchable icons are comically dragged into the domestic: you'll find them in your humble bedsitting room, in the bathroom, on the loo. Context is everything to the serious sleevefacer.

Be warned, though, sleevefacing can seriously alter your record buying habits. No longer do vinyl vultures ransack charity shops seeking out overlooked musical masterpieces, but they are buying records for their sleevefacing potential too. Cool kids of otherwise impeccable taste are snapping up albums by Demis Roussos, Richard Clayderman and, gulp, Huey Lewis and the News.

No doubt the proliferation of the digital camera in recent years has boosted the phenomenon. Here is a perfect marriage of affordable new techology with that old school, lo-fi format: vinyl. And judging from the cosmopolitan variety of backgrounds on show, sleevefacing has become a global activity.

It's worth noting that this book is excellently produced. The quality and layout of the images, throughout, is first class. And weighing in at 192 pages, with well over 200 examples - at a pocket-fondling £8.99 - it represents great value for money.

Sleeveface by Carl Morris and John Rostron is a celebration of vinyl, pop culture, and being a bit cheeky. It's also great fun. Which is why my local bookstore classifies it under: humour. The book is published by Artisan and would make a perfect Xmas present. If you want a sneak preview have a peek at the official Sleeveface website.