The cover doesn’t feature nudity or sexist or racist images but rather an original oil painting by Cambridge artist Jenny Saville, who is also credited with the artwork on the band’s 1994 release, The Holy Bible.

The painting is of a boy’s face, speckled in reddish brown, blue and black brushstrokes. Apparently the album cover is so controversial because some think the boy looks like he’s been beat up, his face covered in scars and splattered blood.

The Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield told BBC 6 Music that’s not how the band sees the art.

“It is bizarre that supermarkets actually think that [the cover is] going to impinge on anyone’s psyche,” Bradfield said.

“We just thought it was a beautiful painting. If you’re familiar with [Seville’s] work, there’s a lot of ochres and browns and reds … Perhaps people are looking for us to be more provocative than we are being. We just saw a much more modern version of Lucian Freud-esque brushstrokes.”

Nicola Williamson, a music buyer for U.K. supermarket chain Sainsburys, told BBC 6 Music that, “We felt that some customers might consider this particular album cover to be inappropriate if it were prominently displayed on the shelf. As such, the album will be sold in a sleeve provided by the publisher.”

Bradfield thought this was a lame explanation for the cover being banned.

“You can have lovely shiny buttocks and guns everywhere in the supermarket on covers of magazines and CDs, but you show a piece of art and people just freak out,” he said.

Here’s what Guardian writer Jonathan Jones had to say about Journal for Plague Lovers:

“For me this is a painting of psychic hurt, a portrait of pain. In that sense it is truly troubling – but to see it crudely as an image of a child who has been hit (which must be the supermarkets’ view) is to impose your own subjective interpretation. Paint creates uncertainty. It is genuinely impossible to know if those red marks are bloody scars or expressive smears. In the end, what has caused offence is the intrusion of emotion and artistic depth into the temples of commercial banality.”

Click here to see the album cover on the band’s Web site and tell us what you think of the painting. Do you think it’s inappropriate or should be covered with a slipcase?

Read the BBC 6 Music article here.

Read the Guardian article here.