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Here Lies Love
David Byrne & Fatboy Slim Here Lies Love
Released 6 April 2010

Fatboy Slim, David Byrne, Patrick Dillett
Label Nonesuch
Length 90:06
Genre Alternative
Website www.davidbyrne.com

David Byrne and Fatboy Slim have teamed up together on this double CD concept album based on the life of the former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos. Two giants of the music world, an interesting subject, an amazing group of musicians and a rake of A-list vocalists. What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything it seems. On paper this does appear an irresistible combination but in practice, apart from a few key moments, it falls flat on its face.

Opening with the title track ‘Here Lies Love’, featuring Florence Welch, the sound is completely pastiche; Burt Bacharach with a beat. It's not a great start. Things do look up with one of the standout tracks ‘You'll Be Taken Care Of’, which features Tori Amos. A kind of Bahia inspired funk ballad on which Amos performs perfectly. ‘How Are You?’ is another rare gem featuring Nellie McKay. This is a playful, Cuban coloured piece of cafe chic that bounces along very nicely indeed. The following tracks disappoint as the production, sequencing and vocals become very contrived. Even though the vocals vary in tone, due to different vocalists, the overall structure, arrangement and phrasing becomes extremely repetitive. ‘Don't You Agree?’ is another one of the, by now, bog standard funk/latin tracks. Fortunately Róisín Murphy's performance enhances the song and one could happily have a little boogie to it.

Even an amazing artist such as Camille becomes lost in the uninspired drudgery on show here. It seems most of the vocalists just perform rather than collaborate as they all, despite their differing voices, sound exactly the same. Only a handful genuinely transform their given song, such as Tori Amos, Roisin Murphy, Nellie McKay, Kate Pierson and Natalie Merchant. There are some lovely keyboard sounds here such as Clavinet, Hammond and Wurlitzer but the guitars are tame and flat and as for the beats it's as if Norman Cook just opened the closest sample pack he had and said, ‘Yeah, that'll do.'

Despite this criticism I can't help feeling something is lost on me. Maybe the sound is ironic, and given the subject matter, a satirical take on the life of Imelda Marcos. Who knows? Byrne and Cook are masters of their craft but here they have overestimated themselves and produced an album that is at best pleasant background music.

- Gary McDonough