Best Album Packaging

Running, Asshole Savant

Critics' Picks

Running have always had an aesthetic sense more sophisticated than that of a typical noise-punk band. Their J-card in their debut tape had been personally stomped on and scraped up by members of the band, their first full-length had a hand-­lithographed cover, and the cassette Running Forever was set up in a loop so that it played a literally eternal sludge riff. This distinctive approach is one of the things that's made Running the envy of many other Chicago bands—speaking for myself, I was delighted when garage punks Heavy Times recruited Running bassist Matthew Hord to play alongside me in their rhythm section. The band's new Captcha Records release, Asshole Savant, is a one-­sided 12-inch LP; the B side is an etching by William Khein Keihn, best known for providing surreal cover art for Thee Oh Sees and the Fresh & Onlys. The B side and the sleeve feature busy collages of images and phrases that reflect the tongue-in-cheek nihilism Running fans have come to expect from the band. The title track is pressed on a separate piece of vinyl—a neon orange, silk-screened, locked-groove flexi disc—and the two records are designed to spin at different speeds. The absence of labels makes it tough to tell which is 45 RPM and which is 33, adding another layer of strangeness to the elaborate packaging—which, in the words of Captcha honcho Benjamin Funke, was a "tremendously expensive" venture.