Pale Saints' In Ribbons is an album I've always loved. It takes a clean, no-nonsense approach to capturing a classic set of early 90s UK pop songs, with all of the little bits of the Byrds, Jesus & Mary Chain and the rest that you would expect. It's of a piece with the records that came out by Lush, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive around the same time. The alternating male and female vocals (by Ian Masters and Meriel Barham, respectively) and the clean, simple harmonies are a nice complement to the guitars, which nicely balance bombast and restraint. Its only musical weakness is a tendency to play things a little safe, and maybe being a song or two too long (in the way that a lot of 90s albums were, before producers figured out that not every CD has to be full).
However, the album does have one fatal flaw:
Vaughan Oliver, the usually brilliant designer behind longtime 4AD associates 23 Envelope, had a brief-lived obsession with guts and eyeballs around 1991. This cover, and the cover to the Pixies' Trompe le Monde, are among the unfortunate fruits of that preoccupation (the Tromp le Monde cover also features a violently busy design and some more or less pointless cartoons, and is probably my least favorite 23 Envelope design). I get that it matches the title of the album, the type treatment is beautiful, and there's a certain formal beauty to the bleached entrails and the pale blue background, but Vaughan, that shit is nast. For reals. It's this ghastly shadow that's always hovered over my fondness for the music within.