Jonas & François Do It Again For Audio Bullys “Only Man”

You just gotta love the French for their flawless pop sensibilities. The latest in a string of superb music videos by Parisian directing duo Jonas & François for production company El Niño is the promo for Audio Bullys“Only Man”. It is the lead single from Higher Than Eiffel, the third album of the dance punk duo, featuring collaborations with Madness front man Suggs and keyboardist Mike Barson. After T-shirts for “D.A.N.C.E.” by Justice, and freeform graffiti for Kanye West’s “Good Life”, this time the directors went wild with sneakers. Well, more precisely their beautifully designed soles. This is in fact the second video for the track, the original one being by Paul Dugdale for Agile Films.

Audio Bullys – Only Man from El Niño on Vimeo.

The basic concept for this clip is pretty straightforward. The Audio Bullys and a number of extras stand on a sheet of plate glass and are filmed from below. This means that throughout the video you get to see a hell of a lot of shoe soles. But what magnificent and colourful soles! The video cleverly plays off the obsession with custom sneakers in urban culture. With an uncanny eye for detail every single one of them has been custom designed to include pop culture references. They feature excerpts of the lyrics looking like spoof logos and parodies of existing logos, tributes to classic album covers and film posters, weapons and tools, game controllers, 3D glasses, Lego blocks, and other assorted items. The action on that glass plate also is quite surprising. What at first sight looks like an energetic dance-off turns out to be a brutal beating of the Audio Bullys. All of this amounts to a visually overwhelming music video. The sheer amount of detail will have you watch it over and over again.

Of course my inner geek could not resist the temptation to do a frame-by-frame (or is it shoe-by-shoe) analysis of the music promo – yes, it’s DVNO all over again. Brace yourselves, here come close to 70 (!) painstakingly captured screenshots. I couldn’t identify all of them, so I gladly welcome your amendments in the comments below. Show us what you’re made of – the hunt is on!


We start off with a Snellen eye chart-inspired design set in slab serif capitals. Surprisingly all the Ns are upside down. Although they have both top and foot serifs on the diagonal stroke, you can clearly see the weight division is reversed.


I don’t know if this references anything existing. I can make out an archetypical American black and white police car like us Europeans know them from the movies, and something that looks like blood splashing on the hood. The typography are those typical horror letters on pulp fiction covers.


The design on the top right shoe is really clever. The black “Only Man” lettering is arranged on the outside of a yellow ellipse to form an iconic comic book logo. “Holy optical illusion, Batman, it’s an inverted Bat-symbol!”


A line from the lyrics is rendered in a freeform bulbous connected script. The swash underlining the bottom word is reminiscent of sports scripts.


This is a cool take on the new ‘unforgeable’ UK National Identity Card, with type that looks like Century Gothic. Tom Dinsdale’s photo is an actual frame from the video, the signature is the graffiti-like Audio Bullys logo, and the posterised image in the bottom right corner is lifted from the artwork of the new album.


I sure hope they don’t land in any serious trouble with the Mighty Mouse over spoofing the Walt Disney logo. It is pretty neat how they substituted the M for the Micky Mouse glove.


The bottom left shoe shows the Hollywood sign which looks a lot like ITC Machine. The set up with the additional elements makes me suspect this references something specific, like a logo or a poster. The purple colour of the mountains and the spotlights with the Hollywood sign make reader and fellow Typophile Craig Eliason think it may be the Hollywood Video logo.


And this of course is a nicely adapted MTV logo. It is the old one though. The television company recently dropped the “Music Television” bit, reflecting the fact that the broadcaster is not really about music anymore.


The sneaker on the left is adorned with an adjustable spanner. The right one however was a mystery to me. Fortunately the living and breathing encyclopaedia of typography and pop culture that is Mark Simonson revealed the design is based on the hover board used by Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future II.


This is a nod to a pretty recent cult movie. Just like on the original poster, this fake Fight Club logo is integrated in a pink bar of soap. I guess the fist was added to bring the message home. The “Girl” is just a script, unless I am missing something.


Three brightly coloured versions of the “Only me” song fragment, designed to look like logos, and set in respectively Helvetica, an extra bold compact sans, and casual brush sans caps.


These two words “Left” and “Right” drawn to look like brick constructions may allude to comic books, more specifically to the – very literal – architectural lettering in Will Eisner‘s gorgeous covers and opening pages for his classic The Spirit strips.


At first sight the dinosaur breaking free from what looks like a can or similar container made me think of Jurassic Park, more specifically this poster for The Lost World, yet I think that’s not it. The pose looks strangely familiar. Is this from another movie, or a video game like Dino Crisis? Or a brand of soft drinks? Unless I remember it from one of the logos or fake brands used for props in the Jurassic Park movies.


On the left foot a hot dog with the smear of mustard on the sausage spelling out “man”, like some savoury, spicy neon tube. And on the right foot the perfect complement for a tasty treat – a ketchup bottle spilling its tomaty relish.


Phew, the sneaker at the bottom left is very hard to read. Two hands – the one on the left is almost completely out of the frame – have red strings intertwined between their fingers and going from one hand to another that seem to form letters. I checked the lyrics but really can’t make out what the words are.


This is a funny section. The instrumental interlude (you can hardly call it a solo) is played on keys integrated in the sneaker sole.


Besides the sneaker soles, some of the lyrics are written in white-out on animated black and white photographs of the two band members. There is no direct reference I am aware of, save the 50s vintage looking illustrations that also remind me of the very first cartoons.


I have no clue why “Sun beam” is written on that chain saw. Is it an allusion to a brand or a movie or something along those lines?


Some more white-out lettering on animated photographs. Just like in the previous instances select words were replaced with small illustrations, or drawings were added. The three-dimensional lettering for “Milk” with the milk carton substituting for the “I”, the smiling tooth, and the shining dentures are deliciously naive.


Posterised comic book renderings of DJ Tom Dinsdale (left) and vocalist Simon Franks (right) sing words from the song. Fun detail – as the dancer has his/her legs crossed at the beginning of the frame the words are in the wrong order. It’s only after completing the twirl that they can be read correctly. For some reason the primary colour scheme of red, blue, and yellow in combination with bold black outlines and some white make me think of early Spider-Man comics.


Analog meets digital – hand-drawn LCD type.


Whoa, a smorgasbord of references in this one. On the left, from top to bottom, the Coca Cola logo, IBM, Intel Inside, and M&Ms – we called the plain brown peanut variant Treets and the chocolate ones Bonitos. I wonder if the misspelled “mam” is intentional.


Those vintage red and cyan 3D-glasses incorporate the shoe size of the sneaker. “Holy relief, Batman, everything has volume!”


Somehow the French always manage to sneak in some naked women and still not make it look offensive. The silhouettes remind me of the street art of Belgian art collective Cum*. The huge eyes are a fun commentary on the nature of porn and its effect on the average viewer.


This flaming banner with yellow letters is a take on the logo of the famous Hot Wheels die cast toy cars.


More white-out lettering on an animated black and white photograph. Mark Simonson recognised the reference to 21 Jump Street, the late eighties–early nineties American crime drama series that provided a spark to Johnny Depp’s nascent acting career.


I wouldn’t be surprised if this were lifted from a painting by Roy Lichtenstein.


The missing person ad on a milk carton was also used as a device in the video by Hammer & Tongs’ Garth Jennings for Blur’s Coffee & TV. That pesky little bugger even has its own website, and a Fan Page on Facebook. I think the extra bold compact sans may be the ubiquitous Impact.


We’ve seen them appear in previous frames, but here they are in full. These sneakers feature a selection of onomatopoeias – sound effects commonly used in comic books. Look no further than the type collection of Comicraft, purveyors of fine comic book typography since 1992, if you need to reproduce any of these.


Another amusing instrumental interlude. This time sneakers with music notes on them walk on the stave.


Ouch, that must be uncomfortable. Simon Franks’ head gets chewed on by massive teeth.


I don’t know what this is all about. This sneaker seems to represent a rivalry between Paris & London, with the British Queen and London Underground logo (with inverted colours) as the “o” in London on the one hand, and the Eiffel Tower (the “i” in Paris) on the other hand.


This visualisation of the successive pulses from the first pulsar discovered is a reference to Peters Saville’s iconic cover for Joy Division’s seminal album Unknown Pleasures.


This depiction of a switchblade instantly cranks up the aggressiveness factor in the video.


I think these are vintage reflexology foot maps. The lighter hues covering almost the complete colour spectrum give them a sunny, refreshing appearance.


A massive diamond is sure to add some bling to your sneaker. Nice detail – the diamond illustration effectively scratches the plate glass when the dancer twirls.


Ouch, that must be more than uncomfortable. Simon Franks gets kicked in the nuts with a fire extinguisher.


A better look at the sneaker in the fourth frame from the top. The swash underlining the last word is in fact drawn by a lipstick that was used to letter the piece. The other sneaker features some more soft porn. Those darn French, they simply can’t resist … ; )


This spoof of the I Love New York logo – the world-famous rebus created by Milton Glaser – spells out “Only (me)”. The typeface used for the original is ITC American Typewriter; this one looks like a slab serif with more square slabs.


No fire extinguisher to the testicles this time, but an honest fist in the stomach, complete with “Knock” sound effect.


I like how the dancer has to complete the dance move to render the text on the other sneaker readable. The blue sole says “Sunbeam”, the red one “coming down”. The modular type was constructed with Lego blocks, FontStruct-style.


More architectural lettering inspired by Will Eisner’s The Spirit.


I have no clue what this might be. Two pairs of high-heeled ladies’ feet with blue script lettering connecting them. Another eighties movie reference?


This on the other hand is a no-brainer. The classic Back To The Future movie logo is spoofed very convincingly.


I simply love this swashy version of Cooper Black Italic. It’s about time somebody digitised those extra glyphs Ozwald B. Cooper designed back in the 1920s. For an alternative see Goudy Heavyface Italic. Not many people realise this, but the Light weight of Cooper works fine as a compact and friendly alternative to common text faces. One of my favourite graphic design-related books, Lay in, lay out: en ander oud zeer by Piet Schreuders is set in it.

: : U P D A T E : :

Jonas and François themselves revealed in the comments below that the image and type on this pair of sneakers are a reference to the poster for the French soft porn classic movie Emannuelle.


This looks like another version of the lipstick lettering. The red is pink here, and the thought balloon seen in the fourth frame from the top is missing. Reader MrD points out that the lettering style and the lipstick are taken from the New York Dollseponimous debut album. Indeed for example the “k” and “w” are identical to the ones in the band logo.


This is a pretty cool idea. The letters on this sneaker look like pink chewing gum that’s been stepped on. However the initial “O” is the real deal, sicking to both the plate glass and the sneaker sole.


I am not very familiar with this specific area of pop culture, but I think these graphics may refer to hot rod culture, and the work of Ed “Bid Daddy” Roth in particular.


We’ve had hot dogs and Coke, so it is no great surprise the Burger King logo – the old one – makes an appearance as well. I can already feel my arteries clogging up. The freeform sans caps with the added exclamation mark suit this spoof logo very well.


The image in the Jaws movie poster is etched deep into our collective consciousness. Steven Spielberg forever changed modern movie making, and going for a swim in open sea was never the same again.


This shoe is a rather faithful interpretation of a vintage Gamepad for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Nintendo’s second home console was released between 1990 and 1993, and went on to become the best-selling console of the 16-bit era.


If you thought the Nintendo controller was vintage, this is downright ancient. The falling Tetris blocks form “Audio Bullys” in pixel type.


Two crushed soft drink cans are visible underneath these sneakers, made to emulate the Diet Coke/Coca Cola Light packaging.


Audio Bullys’ DJ Tom Dinsdale (top) and vocalist Simon Franks (bottom) rendered in colourful rubber.


One can never have enough boobs in a British dance punk video, and preferably clad in a Union Jack bikini top. And a big, bad-ass chain around the neck doesn’t hurt neither.


One last cult classic eighties cinema citation – this is a neat interpretation of the Top Gun movie logo, set in ITC Machine. Iceman “Man, you can ride my tail, anytime!” Maverick “You can ride mine!” Holy homo-erotic subtext, Batman! “What, you mean … like the two of us, Robin?”


It’s all in the details, baby. Even the end title credits are applied to the sole of a sneaker slowly sliding by. How’s that for commitment?


And with a judiciously positioned manhole cover sporting the band name and song title in Helvetica Condensed, we end this very long and exhausting post. Glad we got that over with. Now it’s up to you to fill in the blanks.

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  1. The mystery design in image 11 (audiobullys_onlyman_11.jpg) is the hoverboard design from Back to the Future II & III

    Posted by Mark Simonson on Jun. 8, 2010
  2. Could that second image be a take on the movie “Repo Man”?

    Posted by Craig Eliason on Jun. 8, 2010
  3. The purple mountains and spotlights with the Hollywood sign come from Hollywood Video I think.

    Posted by Craig Eliason on Jun. 8, 2010
  4. #35 is a reference to the tv show “21 Jump Street”.

    Posted by Mark Simonson on Jun. 8, 2010
  5. Thanks for sharing, Yves! And for the play by play. =) Good stuff. Amazing, the amount of work and ideas put into it.

    Posted by Ruben David Marques on Jun. 9, 2010
  6. Wow! You gotta love this crazy Yves. What a journey, thanks.

    Posted by Florian on Jun. 9, 2010
  7. The lipstick one reminds me of the New York Dolls’ first album.

    Posted by MrD on Jun. 11, 2010
  8. Of course! How did I miss that? Excellent! :)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 11, 2010
  9. For the picture 20 of the red string, you have the picture upside down. Look at the opening sequence, around 0:07 and you can see it right side up. It’s 2 fists and it says Audio Bullys.

    Posted by Heather on Aug. 26, 2010
  10. Ouch, it’s as simple as that? Now I feel stupid. Well spotted, Heather! : )

    Posted by Yves Peters on Aug. 27, 2010
  11. This video is so rad, we have a cool interview with Simon Franks on //SLANGmagazine


    Posted by //SLANG on Oct. 28, 2010
  12. in Mexico have a store where they sell?
    just love the design I await your answer.

    Posted by Franco Amaya on Nov. 5, 2010
  13. You guys did an amazing frame by frame job!
    It was fun to read, many thanks, we appreciated a lot.

    Best from Paris, J&F.

    Posted by Jonas & Francois on Jun. 1, 2011
  14. The only one you didn’t get was the “I SEE A SUNBEAM” one (in white Cooper Black font) with the profile of a woman face on the right sole.

    This is a reference to the poster of the french soft porn classic movie “EMMANUELLE” (1974).

    Posted by Jonas & Francois on Jun. 1, 2011
  15. Hi Jonas & François, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Dissecting your video was loads of fun. : )

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jun. 1, 2011
  16. Is there a place or person you can refer me to that makes the customer soles like that?

    Posted by Erica on Nov. 30, 2011
  17. Errr, this is a typography blog, not a sneaker aficionado website. : )

    Posted by Yves Peters on Nov. 30, 2011

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