David Byrne & Brian Eno: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
If popular culture has taught us anything, it’s that we should never trust suburban bliss. Whether it’s in classic films like American Beauty and Blue Velvet or small screen hits like Desperate Housewives, manicured lawns and picket fences are invariably a front for dysfunctions, neurosis and murder.
And so it is with the Grammy Award-winning artwork for Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, the 2008 collaboration between Brian Eno and David Byrne. While it initially resembles a screen shot from The Sims, upon closer inspection the picture gets much darker.
The packaging was designed by Stefan Sagmeister design house Sagmeister Inc,. “I loved the music right away” recalls Sagmeister “it was new; it was different from anything they had done before.” After a few listens, the designers noted the contrast between the “exuberant” music and the “dark edge” of the lyrics.
The inspiration for the cover was Home, one of the record’s key tracks, where Byrne sings:
Home – such a funny feeling
Home – no one ever speaking
Home – with our bodies touching
Home – and the cameras watching
While the track sounds sunny and uplifting, it’s clear that “not everything is all hunky dory”, as Sagmeister puts it. So after creating the pixilated perfection on the record’s cover, the designers then fill the booklet with “clues that allow the viewer to put his or her own story together”.
We make out a shady figure clutching binoculars in one of the windows. Band-aids sit on the back porch, while a condom wrapper can be spotted in the roof’s gutter. And that’s before we discover the ominously armoured door, which presumably leads down to a cellar.
But why the pixilated aesthetic? The answer may lie in the music. Brian Eno describes the collaboration as combining “something very human and fallible and personal, with something very electronic and mathematical sometimes.” He says that he and Byrne tried to “make that picture of the human still trying to survive in an increasingly complicated digital world.”
The incredible deluxe packaging comes in a tin (described by Sagmeister as a “jewel box”) that models the suburban environment in 3D. Upon opening, a microchip plays the sound of footsteps walking down a corridor and slamming a creaky door. The experience is so rich that by the time you reach the great record by Eno and Byrne, it simply feels like a welcome bonus.
We may not be able to trust suburban bliss, but with designers like Sagmeister around, perhaps we can still rely on the simple pleasures of kick-ass cover art – even in our increasingly digital world.
This article originally appeared in Monster Children Magazine