Thursday, April 08, 2010

'Here Lies Love' by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim

8 April 2010

One of the most bizarre aspects of visiting the Vigário Geral favela in Rio de Janeiro was spotting, on the wall of a small family restaurant in the heart of the favela, the signature of former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne. I suppose it wasn't that surprising, knowing that Byrne is a good friend of Brazilian Tropicália singer Caetano Veloso and that Veloso is a key supporter of our hosts, Grupo Cultural AfroReggae, but it still seemed an incongruous intrusion in the extreme surroundings of the favela. I guess nothing should really surprise me where David Byrne is concerned: his latest album, launched this week, sees Byrne collaborating with Fatboy Slim to produce a disco song cycle about the life of Imelda Marcos - a concept that sounds as if it should have been released on 1 April rather than 6 April! Nevertheless the result is fabulous: 'Here Lives Love' features 22 (mainly female) guest vocalists taking turns to tell the story of the life of the former First Lady of the Philippines, and the woman who raised her, through the medium of disco - a reference to Imelda Marcos' love of nightclubs. And those vocalists include some of my favourite singers such as Natalie Merchant, Martha Wainwright and the sublime Allison Moorer. I've always appreciated David Byrne's taste in collaborators since learning that the backing vocals on his wonderful 1989 album 'Rei Momo' were by another personal favourite, Kirsty MacColl. The cast list on 'Here Lies Love' also features Cyndi Lauper, Tori Amos, Florence Welch, Róisín Murphy, Camille and Steve Earle as Ferdinand Marcos! The succession of female vocalists playing particular parts reminded me of 'God Help the Girl' (reviewed here in August 2009). But 'Here Lies Love' is unmistakably a David Byrne creation with the disco beats underpinned by his beloved Latin rhythms. A surreally infectious treat.

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