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Album review: David Byrne & Fatboy Slim's 'Here Lies Love'

Byrne_fatboy_2401 David Byrne has never lacked for ideas or curiosity, whether it's unearthing world music gems for his former label Luaka Bop, creating art with the presentation software PowerPoint or seizing around in an oversized suit with the Talking Heads.

But on his collaboration with Fatboy Slim (a.k.a. Norman Cook) on the story of Imelda Marcos, "Here Lies Love: A Song Cycle About Imelda Marcos & Estrella Cumpas," Byrne gets bogged down in the fertile ground of his boundless imagination.

Spanning two CDs and 22 songs with as many guest singers (mostly female), "Here Lies Love" tracks Marcos' rise from poor girl to disco-hopping wife of dictator Ferdinand Marcos to disgraced exile most famous in the U.S. for her shoe collection.

Using Imelda's relationship with her childhood maid as a focal point, Byrne wrote the songs, with Cook supplying the beats.

The disco-heavy songs with Afro-Cuban flourishes pan out well, but when Byrne relies on more schmaltzy Broadway-lite fare, the work loses steam. The pacing of this 89-minute-long cycle suffers: Byrne, a meticulous researcher who's embedded the songs with direct quotes and crafted a 120-page hardcover book to accompany the CD/DVD package, could have used a good editor.

Nonetheless, there are several rollicking moments: Sharon Jones spices up the proceedings on the more lively second CD; Cyndi Lauper is seductively sly on the courtship romp "Eleven Days"; and "Every Drop of Rain," with Candie Payne and Annie Clark of St. Vincent, is a successful merger of show-tune ditty and salsa-inflected hip-shaker.

There are worse indulgences than chasing every idea -- as far as we know, Byrne doesn't have 3,000-plus pairs of high heels.

-- Margaret Wappler 

David Byrne & Fatboy Slim
"Here Lies Love"
(TodoMundo/Nonesuch)
Two and a half stars (Out of four)

 
Comments () | Archives (6)

Firstoff, I listened to this project on NPR and commend all of the people in this project for making a fine effort. It is, troubling for me, as Pilipino American to embrace it because of the subject matter, who is still a living, breathing person with enormous character flaws. She is living example of self-indulgent delusion personified. Separating her from the myth and the reality of her own cruel excesses is nearly impossible. I laud David Byrne et al for tackling this project and wish them well.

Just out there even for Byrne fans.

David Byrne and Fatboy Slim have created an enormous work with their work on the story of Imelda Marcos. "Here Lies Love: A Song Cycle About Imelda Marcos & Estrella Cumpas" is an adventure into the insane world of the incredibly wealthy who live upon the fruits and labors of millions of poor and dying people while 'enjoying' themselves dancing through life in ignorance and denial.

These two CDs and 22 songs present many guest singers and follows Imelda's rise from middle class girl to becoming the wife of US backed Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos and finally to exile in the U.S.

The beat and melodies of the songs bring out the music of the Philippines in a way that is often not heard in the industrialized west. Mistaken for disco the music is used along with lyrics to paint a portrait of pain and excess that is as interesting as it is incomprehensible when one considers the supporting and surround facts of the images and scenes being communicated.

The music is great and well worth a listen - this is another landmark success that is sure to be little understood but as long lived as the work involved in David Byrne and Brian Eno's 1980 recording "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" which featured another obscure but important view of Western life 'from the outside' as presented by Amos Tutuola.

Yawn . . . just like almost everything Byrne has done.

Well, I thought it was beautiful and from what I understand,it is being written into a musical, hence the "broadway lite fare".

Very clubby. Very danceable. I see this being played in the discotheques of Makati/Manila. And there she is the Asian Evita!


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