I'll admit that I'm a sucker for nicely designed CD packaging. Back when I was in college, I wrote a column for a newspaper and would hand out awards (well, at least mentions) for my picks of the year in the design department. I've always been a very visual person and sometimes I feel slagged-off if an artist I enjoy releases a disc with shoddy packaging. On occassion, I've even bought a cheap CD that I hadn't heard, simply because it looked nice. Most people don't even know that at the Grammy awards every year, they actually give away an award for such a thing (and it's usually the only one that I'm interested in). The point I'm trying to get to is that the Free Mars album by Lusk was nominated in this category in 1998. While it didn't win, it still gave me an excuse to seek out the disc and check it out.
Fortunately for me, the packaging is not only nicely designed, but there is some catchy music on the disc as well. The group is made up of a duo of artists, as well as random contributors and creates sort of new-wave sounding pop songs with not only the standard guitar, bass and drums, but the addition of nicely layered keyboards, stringed instruments, horns, and other randomly placed odd instruments (shortwave radio, concert harp). Most of the songs have dual vocal parts and stretch out to longer than the standard radio fare without managing to get boring, and the hidden track on the disc of 3 guys running around a studio while trying to smash a spider (with nothing more than a drum machine as backing music) is very funny. It's an interesting listen overall, and quite pretty to look at.