When trying to think up how best to describe this cover for Portishead’s “Third” I found an interview with the designer which summed it up perfectly. Which makes sense as he designed it. Marc Bessant said;
“after the ten year gap from the last record I knew the only visual which had stuck in the public eye had been the â€˜Pâ€™ character, it was an established brand which I wanted to not only reintroduce but reinforce. We were keen to avoid anything â€˜conceptualâ€™, no puns or noir imagery, that was all dead to us, I wanted to present a box, which simply holds the music, with the least amount of information on it which would ultimately say everything â€“ essential minimalism â€“ which I felt captured the eastern block coldness of some of the music I was hearing in the studio.”
I think that perfectly describes this cover.
The statement above shows the importance of having a strong brand to your band. If you were to disappear for 10 years what would people remember about you? Do you have a strong visual mark to identify yourself?
The subtle texture and rough painted lines are a nice touch. If this was done in a vector program it would have lost a lot of its charm.
There was a limited edition box set which contained all the usual goodies but also a “P” USB stick with pre-loaded videos. This rocks but at 1GB you’ll end up just keeping it in the bookshelf to show off to friends as 1GB is like giving someone a Moleskine with 10 pages. Nice but useless.
Marc did the modeling in MODO. Which I’d never heard of before.
Here’s the box set description from the actual box.
Here’s the limited print by animator Nick Uff. Scan from Luke’s flickr. Not my cup of tea but you can’t please everyone. I’m not sure if every print was different or there was a selection or prints as the one in the image above is different from this scan below. Here’s an interesting interview with Nick Uff. His Youtube channel is pretty sparce.
Here’s a clip for “We Carry On” that was on the USB stick.
For some reason Island & Universal disable embedding on their Youtube video. (WHY!?) So see the video for “The Rip” here in terrible Youtube quality.
Here’s one of his personal animations. It’s certainly different.
You’ll notice it says “ongoing online content” as part of the box set. One part of that is this live video of a gig from the Mayan Theatre.
One element I am disappointed with on the Third album is the lack of continuity. That beautiful simplicity of the P3 is then wasted on the “Machine Gun” and “The Rip” singles.
Machine Gun (below) looks like a NIN cover and carry no resemblance to the Third cover.
It does match the film clip however. Directed by John Minton
PORTISHEAD “MACHINE GUN”
I found this version of the cover while researching. I don’t think it’s official though (As pointed out by JT in the comments the font is wrong)
Check out John’s other Portishead clips such as the P3 logo reel below
and the “The truly spectacular Universal conference film”.
Check out the Portishead Youtube channel for a few more videos.
That’s probably the only song I think I could fake myself as a drummer on :)
Here is “The Rip” which features artwork by Nick Uff etched into the vinyl.
Could the simple blue painted letters have become old quickly? Maybe, but these other designs just seem so disjointed that you lose the synergy of having a album and single being part of a pack.
There was a poster for the album created which is just the cover with a date. It would have been nice to see if this P3 simple idea could have been explored further.
if you want more info on the designer Marc Bessant, he has a site, a blog and a Behance portfolio. I have noticed recently that most of my designer searches are showing up with Behance portfolios so I guess this site is becoming popular.
What amazed me was that Marc was the director of the “All Mine” promo video seen below. I remember originally seeing this and thinking WTF!?
Now I look at it again and love it. Marc posts about this on his blog here.
“I remember the shocked faces at a trendy Soho film suite when asking that they keep bumping down the original film to VHS tape and then back again so as to get a proper degraded feel to it, as opposed to a computer filter added after. To me it looks just the right side of ropey but alas the TV powers that be weren’t so keen so the film was rarely played. The italian subtitle mid-way through the promo reads ‘We apologise for the poor quality of sound’ – an obvious pun when the sound is really the only thing of true quality.”
He also designed and shot the cover for their self titled album “Portishead”. So 11 years later he’s back on the job. Here’s to keeping an updated phone book :)
I wonder if he was also responsible for the “P” which became their logo? As their previous covers did not feature it. The Portishead website is just a bunch of P’s so it looks like they’ll be sticking with it for a while.
For those that want to know the data rate of the tracks on the USB stick and any other minute details check out Discogs.