What is love? Love is a man with a birdcage on his head in mostly just his pants

Our resident art critic Clive le Bouche reviews album artwork – new and old

We’ve all been in love by now. If not with a person then at least with a Mars Bar or a boxset or a dog. When you know, you know. Love is magic, and John Grant is heaping that fuzzy, vomiting feeling upon his new album sleeve. Think of love, look at this sleeve – that’s totally it!

Let’s go straight for the fonts on this because they’re special. The John Grant logo is basically a dream. Remember Rod Stewart’s font choice last month? What a joke. Grant’s curly, three dimensional lettering inspired by Hubba Bubba Roll does not come installed in your Dell laptop, and he should be applauded for taking this seriously. The same goes for his ‘Love Is Magic’ sticker. (I’m actually clapping now.) It’s perfect. A simple condensed sans serif (that your Dell probably does have) in red, on – and this is really good – a glitter background. Grant’s got the expensive logo but he’s still demonstrating how to be effective on a budget with a little imagination. I almost don’t care about what else is on this cover, but, yeah, that is John Grant with his head in a birdcage, singing into a condenser microphone, wearing a jumper from Primark’s ‘cosy and cute’ range and just his grundies downstairs. His face is painted white, but I’m pretty sure that that is a red herring and has nothing to do with love being magic. How do I know that the jumper is ‘cosy and cute’ by Primark? Look – some of the feathers are already coming off.

Here’s how this shoot probably played out: John Grant turns up at a studio with a curtain for a backdrop. The album is called ‘Love Is Magic’ and he asks for a condenser microphone to be hung from the ceiling. His label people instantly get it – John is going to pay wry homage to Rat Pack crooners, and troll Michael Bublé and his old fashion, phony take on love by dressing up like him. He’ll put on his tux soon. He wants a birdcage too. Ok, that makes sense – a kind of deliberately sickly tableau of love, which is so clearly not what his music is. Oh, this is good. Everyone sniggers. “Nice one, John, we’ll leave you to it and check back in after a long lunch.”

When they do return they’re faced with this image. Grant has forced his head through the bottom of the birdcage and has painted his face white on a dare. There is no tux. There isn’t even the pair of trousers that he did have on earlier. But how do you ask an artist like John Grant what happened to the Bublé idea? How do you suggest he pops his joggers back on? How do you question his interpretation of this faceless thing called love? How do you check the ‘cosy and cute’ label now that his head is in a birdcage?