Recently there's been a wealth of news arising in anticipation of “Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King.” Along with several song titles, we are also being given a taste of some artwork related to the new album. At the time of this writing, three pictures have surfaced, all of which have a very distinct New Orleans, Mardi Gras feel to them. The pieces are creating substantial buzz in the DMB community, with fans wondering what the works mean. Let me first say, that analyzing artwork is a hugely subjective and projective endeavor, with interpretations varying widely depending on the person doing the review. With that in mind, here are some of my thoughts on the recent pictures. Remember, the forum is always open and welcoming to differing points of view.
In the first picture, there is a bird that seems to have been released by a man on the roof. Interestingly, the bird's shape is a cross (which can be interpreted in a religious way, or as a symbol of the four directions), and looks like a dove. Historically, the dove is thought to represent creation, being a bird of prophecy, helping us see what is yet to come. Its song is said to remind us to mourn what has passed while awakening to future beginnings. Clearly, this is in line with the life, death, and rebirth theme that this album seems to embody. We know that LeRoi's death has made an enormous impact on the band, and that he is profoundly present in the spirit of their latest creation. In fact, as Dave mentions in his article with Billboard magazine, “I think it's really appropriate that Roi's voice be the first on the record.” There is also a shining sun in this picture, symbolizing hope, which again Dave mentions as a theme for this compilation. The people on the balcony are portrayed with some disfigurement to their faces, particularly their noticeably empty eyes, which can be a symbol of loss or despair. Of note, is that there are a total of 9 people in the drawing, and 9 is thought to be the most sacred number of all. It is said to be the number of all life on Earth, again working with the life/death theme.
The second picture features a soulful looking man, who some may argue, resembles LeRoi. It is clear that this person is the focus of this picture, because he is in the foreground, and he is the only person in all three of the pictures, whose whole face can be clearly seen. Additionally, we see his hand very clearly with detail, which is often a symbol of power, or the ability to effect change. All of the other people in the drawing retain the disfigured qualities, and some even appear ghost-like. Could it be that this is a picture taken from “the other side?” On one of the girls' shirts, we can see some writing which could turn out to be lyrics. All that I can make out is, “I wanna fill my belly....I gotta get paid.”
The third picture, features another Mardi Gras scene, with what seems to be a dead fish floating over the crowd. To further play with reality, we could say that this represents a pictorial image of the new song “Dive In” that Dave discusses in the recent Billboard article. Some of the song's lyrics state:
wake up sleepy head, I think the sun's a little brighter today / Smile and watch the icicles melt away / and see the waters rising. Summer's here to stay and all the summer dreams will last forever / let's go down to the shore and kick off our shoes and dive in the empty ocean.
The song is reportedly about the end of the world, perhaps due to global warming, which could be taken to mean that we are all submerged under water with dead fish floating above us. Again, the picture features the same disfigurement of people, along with a man wearing a crown, perhaps another reference to the king.
All three pictures are done in light, almost faded colors, which gives the impression of coming from another time or place. This seems to resonate with the idea that perhaps the images can be viewed from an alternate reality. Regardless, it is clear, that these works center around the life/death theme that has been inspired by the loss of LeRoi. Not only will his presence be heard in the music, but it can also be seen in these moving images.
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self