David Byrne hasn't been a stranger to finding good collaborative partners during his illustrious solo career. When the news came out that he would be making a album with Norman Cook, alias Fatboy Slim, it definitely sounded very appealing. However, this was also a very interesting gambit of sorts.
You see, Byrne's fascination with the former First Lady and President of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, forms the basis of this double-disc album, Here Lies Love. To go into the myriad issues that the very controversial ex-head of state is known for (she is still running for elections at the age of 80) would be a disservice to the music. What is important here is how well Byrne and Cook portrayed her story.
The album starts off very strong with the title track, which opens with a very idyllic fusion of island rhythms and orchestral work and the voice of Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine fame — and man does she have a voice. This is where the real power of the album lies, of course; the inspired choice of guest singers throughout the album.
We're treated with a great duet on the following track, "Every Drop of Rain", which has Candie Payne and St. Vincent playing two different characters in the Marcos saga over more easygoing rhythms. For a change of pace, Santigold also puts her voice on a track "Please Don't", but Cook's normal beats just don't seem to work with her. Sia Furler's definitely does on "Never So Big", with her soulful voice riding on the beach guitars and Fatboy-style drums.
More well-known mainstays Tori Amos, Cyndi Lauper and Natalie Merchant also have vocal duties, to varying degrees of success. Amos on "You'll Be Taken Care Of" is amazing, and Lauper does her thing over the disco beats of "Eleven Days", but when put together on the album closer "Why Won't You Love Me", it sounds off. Merchant is amazing on "Order 1081", which is itself is a reference to Ferdinand Marcos' declaration of martial law. It's a very powerful song, and her voice helps elevate it in that respect.
There are other guest spots that should be mentioned, as well. Sharon Jones on "Dancing Together" puts her soul-revivalist action over the funk beats, and Róisín Murphy led the disco-inspired melodies on "Don't You Agree".
Overall, David Bryne and Fatboy Slim's music is a mix of the aforementioned Pacific island rhythms along with deep guitar work, and at times full blown disco. It could have been a sprawling and languid affair, and sometimes it is but when put with the right vocalist it adds depth to an otherwise peculiar attempt at an album.