…and I’m head over heels Any ’80s kid can finish the rest of that with no prompting.
So I said awhile back I owed Tears For Fears an apology and a new blog post. A couple of posts ago, I referred to them in the context of ‘forgotten music from [my] youth.” That’s partly true; they were huge in the ’80s and rightfully so, on the back of catchy synth-pop tracks like the above-mentioned one and Shout and Everybody Wants To … (yeah, you finished singing it in your head; don’t lie). I knew they’d put out a couple of more songs, but I wasn’t prepared for what I found once I went looking.
So most of us know about The Hurting, their first album, which just turned 30 and gave us Pale Shelter and that gift that keeps on giving, Mad World. 1985 brought Songs From The Big Chair, their big bang that produced the tunes they’re most famous for. In 1989 they gave us Seeds Of Love, providing Woman In Chains and Sowing The Seeds Of Love.
See, what had happened was, here awhile back I got a wild hair to see the Woman In Chains video. It’s a gorgeous song with a video to match. It popped into my head at random one evening, so I YouTubed it up. At the end of it, YouTube helpfully served up some more TFF favorites. As I watched, enjoyed, and read comments, I found myself disabused of a few notions. 1) The band is not broken up and in fact has never broken up. Curt Smith (the chiseled, rat-tailed charmer who sang most of their earlier singles) left in 1990, but Tears For Fears carried on under the sole guidance of Roland Orzabal (the curly-haired, sad-eyed cutie) until Curt’s return in/around 2000. 2) The quality of the music had not suffered. Like, at all. Unlike some acts who get boxed in by their Big Hit Sound, Tears For Fears was and is all about variety. It’s dang near impossible to choose a favorite album or even a favorite song (although I’ve settled on one of each, subject to change, of course).
Imma start with the albums I didn’t know about. YMMV.
Elemental, 1993: I kind of knew about this one, in the periphery of my mind. When I heard Break It Down Again, I immediately recalled it and even my disinterested husband said, “don’t you remember being so excited back then that they were still putting out music?” Well, no, I don’t; my memory is for beans but that’s another post for another day. It’s the catchiest damn song and a guaranteed mood lifter. It has one of my favorite lyrics of all music: They make no mention of the beauty of decay. The awesome doesn’t stop there; Cold is kind of hilarious and has an interesting backstory, and Mr. Pessimist is just so …satisfying. I’m going to run out of superlatives before I even get to the next album, which is just wrong because
Raoul And The Kings of Spain, 1995: Is my favorite TFF album. I got this one in the mail before Elemental, so I of course listened to it first because I ain’t got no sense. I think Elemental suffered a little in its shadow, because Raoul is SEXY. This album has swagger in spades. The title track is sumptuous. Falling Down is clever and fun to sing along with. Los Reyes Catolicos is exquisite; it and the lovely Sketches of Pain are, for me, the stars of the album. Every track on Raoul is evocative. If you’re not emotionally spent at the end of it, yer doin it rong. The critics hated this album. I don’t think they got it, I really don’t. I bought this album on Amazon for less than $5, which embarrasses me somehow. I feel like I absconded from the temple with a priceless relic under my coat.
Tomcats Screaming Outside, 2001: Okay. This is not a TFF album – it’s Roland’s solo album, but since he’d been shouldering the band for so long (and since this is my blog and I do what I want) I’m going to throw it in. In a word: DAYUM. In two words: DAYUM, SON. Tomcats is an acquired taste and not for the faint of heart. It’s [here’s where I wrote some words and deleted them] It [more deleted words] It defies categorization; it just has to be heard. In the interest of full disclosure, I had a visceral negative reaction to one of the songs and that colored my early opinion of the whole thing. Funnily, this song – Bullets For Brains – has since become a favorite and I’m able to see the album for the masterpiece it is. Low Life should have been a smash hit. Day By Day By Day By Day By Day is quietly, desperately brilliant, and Dandelion is one of the most exuberant songs ever recorded. Tomcats never stood a chance; it was released in the US on September 11, 2001, when our minds were on other things.
Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, 2004: You know how when you’re cooking, and you take several tasty things and combine them into a dish? That dish can’t help but taste good while it’s fresh, but once it simmers or marinates it develops flavors that transcend its ingredients and becomes unbelievably delicious. That’s this album. The guys couldn’t have made this album earlier. They had to go through what they went through, produce the music they produced, and live their lives before this was even possible. Thank God they did, because this album is necessary to my personal wellbeing. The way their voices blend back together after so long apart has magic in it. This album is so … mellow. It’s happy. That’s not to say that all the songs are bouncy and lighthearted; some are, but the themes dealt with here are aging and loss and the passage of time, so there’s more than a hint of darkness – sadness, foreboding and resignation all take the stage. But there’s an underlying optimism to it that is so, so appealing; it closes the circle begun by The Hurting, and there’s so much maturity and satisfaction in that. This is Tears For Fears aged to perfection; happy, yes, but hopefully not an ending. The title track is delightful and infectious, you’ll hear a really nice Beatles influence in both Who Killed Tangerine and Secret World, and Killing With Kindness is, simply put, my jam.
Rumor has it that the boys from Bath are back in the recording studio as of this blog post, and I’m beside myself wondering what they’ll come up with next. They’ve never made the same album twice, and despite the obtuseness of the critics and the howls of fans who want only to relive the glory days, they keep evolving their sound, staying current and fresh. If you like solid songwriting, fine musicianship and just all around great tunes, check out not only these albums but also Curt’s solo work – Mayfield and Halfway, Pleased. Don’t wait – you’re just, just, just wasting time.