Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What we're listening to: Here Lies Love by David Byrne & Fatboy Slim

What I knew: album collaboration between David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, featuring various female vocalists (and two males: Steve Earle and Bryne himself). I'm on board!

What I didn't know: it was a two-disc song cycle about Imelda Marcos and her nanny with a disco/pop influence. Huh?

Two aspects bother me: 1)I'm not a fan of disco, which is thankfully cordoned off onto the first disc and 2)The focus is on the chronological storytelling, more than the overall sound the record presents; it's ultimately disjointed which could be attributed to the differing vocal styles of the guest singers. The very thing that makes the record interesting makes it odd to listen to. Alas, the lineup of singers (Florence Welch, Candie Payne, Tori Amos, Martha Wainwright, Nellie McKay, Steve Earle, Cyndi Lauper, Allison Moorer, Charmaine Clamor, Roisin Murphy, Camille, Theresa Andersson, Sharon Jones, Alice Russell, Kate Pierson, Sia, Santigold, David Bryne, Nicole Atkins, Natalie Merchant, and Shara Worden) was impressive on paper.

Though I like it, don't be fooled by the single track "American Troglodyte" (Byrne on vocals)-- it doesn't represent the album well. It is the most modern and influenced by Fatboy Slim of the bunch. Unfortunately, there are tracks on disc one that I don't like ("Walk Like a Woman" with Charmaine Clamor being one. I'm not fond of the pop arrangement and the ridiculous lyrics). Although, to be fair, the first disc does have a couple decent tracks: Nellie McKay's "How Are You?" and Roisin Murphy's "Don't You Agree." I like them as artists apart from this project, so that may have influenced me.

The second disc is downright infectious though, especially the one-two-three punch of Kate Pierson on the B52's sound-alike "The Whole Man," Sia on "Never So Big", and Santigold on "Please Don't." "Never So Big" features a cavaquinho, which sounds similar to a ukulele, so the song has a island-party feel-- good for summer listening. Similarly, "Please Don't" breaks out the shakers and congas for a tropical vibe. Also interesting on disc two is the track "Seven Years" which features an operatic vocal by Shara Worden.

On a philosophical note, I always appreciate when someone takes a chance. I actually like that Byrne took an obscure-ish figure and shined a very bright light for a unnecessarily long time. I found that after I read the extensive liner notes, I was more motivated to really pay attention to the tracks.

I applaud Bryne for doing something different, but personally, I'd stick to disc two.

Here Lies Love
Find it in the catalog!