By Allison Stewart
Operatic in its ambitions, retro disco in its inclinations, "Here Lies Love" is an exhaustive, exhausting examination of the life of Imelda Marcos assembled by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim.
Employing a succession of mostly female guest vocalists, the two-disc "Love" pursues dueling narratives, recounting the tale of Marcos, the allegedly corrupt, possibly murderous former beauty queen-turned-deposed first lady of the Philippines, and her longtime servant Estrella Cumpas.
(Female vocalist guests galore, after the jump.)
"Love" isn't immune to the charms of such blog-baiting youngsters as Santigold, who tackles the fine first single "Please Don't," or Florence & the Machine's Florence Welch, who daintily essays the title track. But it functions primarily as a public works project for female singers of a Certain Age (in pop music, as in Hollywood, this means over 30), like B-52s singer Kate Pierson, Natalie Merchant and the strange bedfellows pairing of Tori Amos and Cyndi Lauper, who team for the serpentine closer "Why Don't You Love Me?"
"Love" is nominally a disco album (in homage to Marcos, a Studio 54 habitué), but it plays more like an energetic pop record shot through with Byrne's customary world-beat flourishes and Slim's steady, if not necessarily world-beating, grooves.
"Here Lies Love" can't help but suffer in comparison to "Evita," the other sweeping set piece about a stylish, iron-fisted first lady. Despite the best efforts of Byrne and his seeming cast of thousands, the real Marcos remains elusive, registering here as little more than a tin-pot Eva Perón, with better shoes.
Recommended tracks: "Please Don't" (Santigold), "Why Don't You Love Me?" (Amos/Lauper)