|Digitised... Bowie and friend reminisce about the old Berlin days.|
The promo video, by US director Tony Oursler, was also intriguing. Nothing slick, nothing flashy, nothing rock ’n’ roll. Two faces tightly and crudely cut out, with a knitted fingerless glove for a body, sitting on a table strewn with mementos. On the right Bowie singing, on the left an an anonymous woman looking out passively. A mirror behind them screens grainy black-and-white footage of 1970s Berlin. The lyrics are tapped out in a gnarly typewriter font as they’re sung; clearly, we’re meant to take in the words. This is more art school than MTV — raw, home made, curious, slightly ugly and unnerving. Eschewing his trademark showmanship, Bowie speaks in a whisper, but we still listen.
|Next... don’t mention dolphins swimming.|
Barnbrook has simply taken the cover of Bowie’s 1977 album “Heroes”, and placed a white square in its centre. The new album title sits in this square, set in a new Barnbrook-designed sans font called Doctrine. Meanwhile, the word “Heroes” on the original image behind has been struck out.
The design is by no means a thing of beauty, but there’s no denying it’s bold, brave and original. As a simple visual metaphor, it speaks eloquently of moving on, while never quite being able to escape the past. There’s something almost sacrilegious about defacing a classic LP design, an echo of Barnbrook’s design for Bowie’s 2002 album ‘Heathen’, which featured vandalised works of art. However, the graphic defilement of ‘The Next Day’ has a more casual brutality — a rudimentary address sticker slapped over a seminal piece of rock iconography. The Doctrine font too is a deliberate piece of undesign, far less showy or politically charged than most Barnbrook typefaces, so it doesn’t distract from the central idea.
Of all Bowie’s album covers, the choice of “Heroes” as a backdrop was inspired — the second in the so-called Berlin trilogy, with a striking black-and-white portrait by Masayoshi Sukita, this was Bowie pictured at the height of his creative powers. “We could be heroes, just for one day”... but now, slaves to the inevitability of time, we’ve moved on to the next.
Here’s how Jonathan explains his rationale.
And here’s a rather amusing (if wide-of-the mark) spoof page which shows that his design has already passed into graphic vernacular.