Music: Fatboy Slim and David Byrne * * *
Here Lies Love (Nonesuch)
It's not particularly surprising that David Byrne has made an album with Fatboy Slim, as the former Talking Heads frontman and alt-rock demigod has a long history of prolific collaborations, including the slinky summer pop hit Lazy with Ashley Beedle's X-Press 2.
The truly mind-boggling detail about Byrne's latest project is that it's a narrative conceptual song cycle based on Imelda Marcos, which attempts to resurrect the human story behind the myth. Hence, there is no mention whatsoever of the infamous 3,000 plus pairs of shoes. The title Here Lies Love is what Marcos wished to have inscribed on her tombstone.
There is another even loftier ambition evident here, or as Byrne puts it, an effort to reverse "the death of the album". The cast of female vocalists is staggering -- Florence Welch, Cyndi Lauper, Roísín Murphy, Natalie Merchant and Santigold to name a few. Byrne and Steve Earle are the only male vocalists, but their contributions are restricted to three tracks out of a whopping 22.
The results are decidedly mixed. Overall, Here Lies Love is frustratingly solid, but never dazzling. It's a shame, as both parties are capable of much better than this.
The album cruises by for an hour and a half of pleasant yet somewhat predictable dance pop. For all the lofty conceptual baggage, it's rather accessible, ploughing a laid back, tropical and Balearic atmosphere. It's shimmery sunshine music for summer days, but lacking the bite to nail it as the ultimate soundtrack for the coming months.
There are some tentative highlights. Kate Pierson from the B-52s adds her gloriously quirky voice to The Whole Man; Roísín Muphy slinkily croons her way through Don't You Agree; and Santigold chips in a stirring Please Don't. On an album that even manages to outdo the recent Gorillaz extravaganza for heavyweight guests, one pines for a bit more David Byrne, who contributes on American Trogolodyte and Seven Years, but is otherwise conspicuous by his absence.
It's a project to get stuck into with a 100-page book brilliantly prefaced and written by Byrne. It's a real shame that the tunes themselves aren't as impressive. All filler, no killer.
Burn it: Here Lies Love; Don't You Agree; The Whole Man; Please Don't