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

April 5, 2010 |  7:19 pm

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"
Two and a half stars (Out of four)