Album Review: Here Lies Love by David Byrne & Fatboy Slim
Fairly Good, Based on 10 Critics
AllMusic - 80 Based on rating 8/10
A concept album based around the lives of Imelda Marcos and her nanny Estrella Cumpas, David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's (Norman Cook) Here Lies Love is primarily a great pop record featuring a bevy of name female vocalists. Grand conceptual themes aside, Byrne, Slim, and Slim cohort Tom Gandey (aka Cagedbaby) have delivered a kooky, fun, theatrical, and -- more often than not -- deliriously listenable collection of '70s and '80s club pop. Inspired by a disparate set of sources, not the least of which included his reading of Ryszard Kapuscinski's book The Emperor as well as various reports detailing the former First Lady of the Philippines' penchant for disco and club life, Byrne formulated this would-be stage production based around the notion -- as he says in the liner notes -- of the "bubble worlds of the rich and powerful" set to the popular sounds (disco, soul, Latin beats, cabaret) of Marcos' time in power.
A dance? album about Imelda Marcos? Not exactly what you’d imagine bumping at the club. But the ex?first lady of the Philippines, a Studio 54 regular, would’ve loved Fatboy Slim’s grooves. While the relentlessly breezy vibe ?occasionally drifts into numbness, Marcos’ story remains fascinating, especially as sung by the likes of Cyndi Lauper, St.
Nearly every review of Here Lies Love is destined to begin the same way: with a rote description of its concept. And why not? The concept of the album lies so far afield of the expected as to embody the rare case of that concept driving a listener’s perception of the album at least as much as the music contained within. In this case, David Byrne and Norman Cook got together and whipped up a concept album about former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos, in the process calling up every female vocalist (and Steve Earle) that they had a number for.
High-concept album underwhelms A concept album is a tricky thing. It strives to occupy the intersection of narrative and song, telling a compelling story though original musical compositions. They’ve been done quite well (think The Who’s Tommy), but they can also be cheesy, overwrought and far more reminiscent of a Disney film than a rock opus. Byrne and Slim fall into this trap again and again during the first half of Here Lies Love, their concept album paralleling the life of former first lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos and the women who raised her.
If David Byrne has never done anything quite like Here Lies Love before (I suppose a smartarse could draw some parallels to the cast recording of True Stories), it’s still fair to say that this record is exactly the type of thing expected from him. From the baffling fraughtness of early Talking Heads to converting London’s Roundhouse into a giant musical instrument last summer, Byrne’s career has defined by a very cerebral, very dedicated form of weirdness, one that seems antithetical to the notion of ‘wackiness’. Thus Here Lies Love - a double album about the rise and fall of Imelda Marcos, partly written in the disco idiom, and featuring a quite mind-boggling array of special guests – doesn’t seem particularly unexpected, just the sort of thing that David Byrne does.
Here Lies Love should have been truly great. Or at least truly awful. A 2xCD album, with 22 guest vocalists, devoted to the life, loves, and sartorial obsessions of the infamous Imelda Marcos, wife of equally infamous Filipino despot Ferdinand Marcos? Masterminded by two of music's most inventive nerds-- David Byrne and Fatboy Slim? Oddball subject, high-profile collaborators, unchecked ambition: a combination that should guarantee either a left-field classic or a cringe-inducing misstep.
Interference Interference joins the arty tribal noise wing of New York City rock on its debut album, “Interference” (The Social Registry). The songs have pushy funk bass lines, flinty guitar dissonances, some squeally horns and a junkyard’s worth of metallic percussion, interspersed with ….
DAVID BYRNE AND FATBOY SLIM Here Lies Love (TODOMUNDO/NONESUCH) Rating: Here Lies Love is a collaborative “song cycle” by revered new-waver David Byrne and infamous English electropop-smith Fatboy Slim. The album chronicles the controversial life of former Filipino First Lady, Imelda Marcos and the woman who raised her, Estrella Cumpas. While Imelda Marcos has historically represented the corruption of her husband’s twenty year presidential reign, Byrne & Slim instead posit her relationship with Estrella as an intimate examination of power.
As an album, Here Lies Love is easier to admire than it is to enjoy. Jim Brackpool 2010 Who else but David Byrne would attempt a 22-song disco opera about the intertwined lives of the Philippines’ controversial first lady Imelda Marcos and childhood confidant Estrella Cumpas? He’s got the socio-political conscience, theatrical vision, globalised perspective and unquestionably the vaunting creativity. By comparison, his main collaborator Fatboy Slim – an artist known for little more than a nauseating crossbreeding of Jive Bunny and the Energizer Bunny – would seem some way out of his league.
David Byrne's in a revisionist mood and has taken on quite the whopper. Here Lies Love, his "concept" album with Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim), narrates the life of former Filipino first lady/shoe enthusiast Imelda Marcos with breezy strings, disco beats, and vocals from Tori Amos, Cyndi Lauper, Kate Pierson, and a cast of others. Not surprisingly, it feels like it should be a Broadway play instead of an unwieldy two-disc album.