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Hudson Mohawke fans find Elbow’s new album cover suspiciously familiar

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Warp: Hudson Mohawke, Chimes, 2014, image credit: Zhong Min/VCG c/o Getty Images

Yesterday, as British band Elbow announced their upcoming eighth record Giants of All Sizes, some viewers couldn’t shake the feeling that they had seen the record sleeve’s artwork before.

And they had – well, sort of. The image used on the cover, which features a crowd of swimmers packed together at a resort in China, was nearly identical to the image on the sleeve for Scottish artist and producer Hudson Mohawke’s Chimes EP, released back in 2014.

Appropriating images on record sleeves is a regular habitual design method, notable in the work of Peter Saville, for instance, who used A Basket of Roses by Henri Fantin-Latour on New Order’s Power, Corruption, Lies record in 1983. But what has confused fans is how close a similarity there is between these two records and the treatment of the two images.

Dominic Flannigan, who designed the original Hudson Mohawke cover at Warp, says it’s difficult to see how Elbow’s design team could have been unaware of the other record. Viewers, he says, have to consider the success of the Chimes EP in 2014, which was one of “Warp’s biggest releases that year with lots of activity including a rap remix, a Boileroom launch in LA and the track placed in an international Apple MacBook Pro campaign.”

Dominic initially began working with an image from a Chinese broadsheet, used to illustrate the heat of summer in an editorial piece. He decided to repurpose it for the Chimes sleeve “to communicate something about the maximalism and colour of the record” and because “it just ‘felt right’ to me”. Moreover, when he showed the design to the artist, “Hud Mo loved it.”

Dominic honestly admits that he “found the image online and can’t pretend to have ownership of it”. In the designer’s mind Elbow’s use of a similar image is a compliment, adding: “Look, I’m not mad at it really. It’s very flattering.” And the Chimes sleeve remains “one of the covers I’m most proud of just by how much it speaks to the music.”

Considering the comments made largely on Twitter over the past 24 hours about the similar images and executions, Dominic concludes: “Elbow, if you’re reading this, don’t change your cover art because of Twitter. That’s stupid. The internet is stupid. If you’re a designer and you saw a Hudson Mohawke cover and still made this cover, you don’t know how the internet works. If you’re the original photographer, thank you, it’s a brilliant photo.”