Nowadays, historical albums are rare. Wait. What the fuck am I saying- historical albums have always been pretty damn rare. Yet in 2010, we’ve had two: Titus Andronicus’ critically acclaimed The Monitor, and now Here Lies Love, a collaborative project headed up by David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame) and Fatboy Slim (No introduction Yes, that is Christopher Walken.) About a year ago, this bizarre duo collaborated on a song called “The BPA TOE JAM,” which features not only the lyrics of famed British rapper Dizzee Rascal, but a video certain to be hailed as for years to come as the most creative use of censorship bars ever. (Do not watch with your parents/younger siblings. It will be awkward.)
With their credentials firmly established, Byrne and Fatboy have released Here Lies Love, an album which examines the life of Imelda Marcos, ex-first lady of the Philippines. Yes, re-read that sentence: Here Lies Love is an album about the wife of a politician. For those who don’t know who Imelda Marcos is/was, here is a brief synopsis: known as the “Iron Butterfly,” Imelda was the wife of Ferdinand Marcos, one-time Filipino dictator who presided over twenty years of martial law, nepotism and corruption. Imelda did her bit by winning the title of “Miss Philippines” as well as shopping and living extravagantly, having a great time on multi-million shopping sprees across the globe, buying real estate (although she turned down the chance to buy the Empire State building because she thought it was ugly.), and amassing a collection of art including works by Michelangelo and Botticelli. Upon her husband’s ouster from power, it was discovered she had 3,000 pairs of shoes. Naturally, all of this fortune/fancy clothes were accumulated as the people of the Philippines lived on or below the poverty line. But enough about her, you say. What about this Here Lies Love thing about this crackpot lady?
Here Lies Love is David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s attempt to make a coherent music album about the above historical figure. To that end, they’ve recruited some of the best and weirdly varied music talent out there- just a few of the guest vocalists include Santigold, Florence (of Florence and the Machine.), Sharon Jones, Tori Amos, and Cyndi Lauper. All of these singers come together to play the two roles central to Byrne and Slim’s story: that of Imelda, and her nanny Estrella Campus, and the relationship of the two women, beginning with Imelda’s childhood and ending with her exile from the Philippines. To help you decipher all of this, you can follow along with the “” on the album’s website, which outlines which characters are singing, what they are singing about, and a timeline of events taking place.
Hold on. You know what? FUCK THAT. Here Lies THE PROBLEM. You should not have to follow an album’s story along a script on some website. Other bands have made concept albums that you can discern the meaning of without having to read through a script of the made-up thoughts of a Filipino dictator’s wife and nanny. This album makes no fucking sense. Who is the audience for this album? I mean, apart from the SFS student reading this blog who is enrolled in a class called “Philosophy of Filipino Dictator’s Wives, 1969-1986,” I don’t know anyone who cares about Imelda Marcos to buy this album, and listen along with David Byrne’s crib notes. They have some great tracks on the album- American Troglodyte has a catchy disco feel, Róisín Murphy’s Don’t You Agree? is great too, and Sharon Jones kills it on Dancing Together- but goddamn it all makes no sense. David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s effort comes out leaving the listener weird and confused, much like how Imelda’s lifestyle left the people of the Philippines feeling. Oh shit- did that mean they succeeded? I mean the album is as confusing as the woman herself.
Best Tracks: Don’t You Agree, Dancing Together, American Troglodyte
-- Josh Smith
"Artists in Exile," Sundays 2-4 pm on WGTB