CD review: David Byrne & Fatboy Slim, “Here Lies Love”
The Aspen Times
By Stewart Oksenhorn
29 April 2010
When David Byrne appeared at the Jazz Aspen June Festival, in 2005, I marveled that Byrne, accompanied by a string quartet, managed to meld influences from America, South Africa, Europe and Africa. Apparently, this was not enough; now, Byrne, with British DJ Fatboy Slim, has discovered Asia.
“Here Lies Love” is an ambitious project (two CDs, DVD, 20 guest singers and a hardcover book in the deluxe package) about former Philippine first lady, Imelda Marcos. It's not the shoes; Byrne's song cycle focuses on the relationship between Marcos and the nanny who raised her, Estrella Cumpas, to get at issues of privilege, celebrity, betrayal and politics.
The story is from Southeast Asia, but the sounds are not. Byrne started with the tidbit that Marcos loved the discos of the late '70s and early '80s, a scene Byrne knew well. With Fatboy Slim as beatsmaster, Byrne updates the dance music of three decades ago with a touch of electronica. He also pulls in handfuls of female singers to bring the songs to life, including era-appropriate Cyndi Lauper and Kate Pierson, more current voices Nellie McKay and Theresa Andersson — and Tori Amos, Allison Moorer, Sharon Jones, etc. Two men are included: Steve Earle, who takes the role of President Ferdinand Marcos in “A Perfect Hand,” and Byrne himself, who gets the catchiest, most up-to-date song, “American Troglodyte,” a critical observation of those things we Americans do that catch the world's attention (“Americans are surfing that Internet/ Americans are listening to 50 Cent”).
Esoteric, for sure. But you don't need to be interested in the history of Filipino royalty to dance to Byrne's soundtrack of it.