What does it sound like?:
While acknowledging Roland Orzabal’s genius for 40 years I’ve also spent a lot of that time worrying about the man behind the music and particularly the lyrics. That the dreams in which he was dying were the best he ever had when just twenty always struck me as terribly sad. So news of a new Tears For Fears album for 2022 filled me with a mixture of excitement and concern especially as this one was 7 years in the making which takes in his wife’s untimely death from cancer in 2017. A look at the track listing did little to allay that concern The Tipping Point, Long Long Time, Break The Man, My Demons, Rivers Of Mercy, mmm. There is Please Be Happy but knowing Orzabal as I do there’ll be a twist. He’s 60 now and looks like God. Perhaps that means he’s found some peace, he’s clearly accepted his aging process and looks fabulous for it. Curt still looks like Curt. Also 60 but perennially perky, glossy and pretty. It was always so. They’re back together and writing together for the first time since 2004’s Everybody Loves A Happy Ending which always felt like it was a full stop before a leap in to heritage band territory. Here they are though after a break of 18 years with a new collection of songs primarily to give them something new for their live performances. Despite an attempt by management to get them to collaborate with younger writers they sat down as they did when they were kids. Roland Curt and a guitar. I went in with more trepidation than I should, it’s just a record Dave I told myself.
It turns out it’s a stunning record. Immediate and raw yet smooth and delicious and full of what we all recognise as Tears For Fears with some surprises along the way. From the acoustic magnificence of the opening track No Small Thing to the last drop of Stay it exceeds all expectations. The title track and Please Be Happy are heartbreaking references to Orzabal’s wife. Please Be Happy in particular seemingly written from his dead wife’s perspective is extraordinary. The Smith penned Break The Man and Stay show again he’s no mere Ridgely to Orzabal’s Michael. Two songs that tell you Curt’s life probably hasn’t been as perky and glossy as his appearance would have you believe. Roland’s My Demons is a rip roaring glam stomp a long stating that his demons “don’t get out much”. End Of Night is a contemporary uptempo gem that is slightly lost among the rest such is the standard set.
There are nods back to earlier Tears For Fears songs throughout. Rivers Of Mercy has everything that made Woman In Chains such a memorably epic song. Roland’s signature guitar breaks, the slow build, the delivery. Just beautiful. Please Be Happy takes you back to I Believe while Master Plan referencing being lost between The Beatles and The Stones could have come straight from The Seeds Of Love Recordings. Stay contains hints of Listen. Overall their voices have never sounded better solo, together or the exquisite heavenly harmonies that send shivers. I need to be careful here not to let the hyperbole take hold but if there’s a better album this year I’ll be astonished. To create something so new yet so familiar and so deep yet so uplifting. To make an album in your 60s with such care and precision. To be Tears For Fears while not pissing all over that legacy but enhancing it takes a very special skill and feel. I really didn’t expect it to be this good.
What does it all *mean*?
My concern for Roland while well founded I clearly had no need to worry. With Curt by his side Tears For Fears create magic. Magic from the depths of of Roland’s soul lifted by whatever dust it is Curt sprinkles. Again like ABBA’s Voyage The Tipping Point is as much about the feeling you get when a band you’ve loved absolutely make new music as the music itself. The feelings created hearing those voices, those ethereal tunes, that noise that bombast. Everything that is Tears For Fears is right here. These are grown up songs by grown ups for grown ups. Their songs always belied their young years, especially The Hurting. The Tipping Point still relies on similar themes but like Curt and Roland those themes have aged. Older and wiser themes maybe but alongside new tunes full of hints to times past that are still tuned right in to what I want from a pop song. This album settles right in among those 80s classics yet stands alone as a contemporary piece worthy of its own place in my heart. Roland’s ok, Curt’s back and much like us all they’ve had a life of ups and downs. Roland’s catharsis seems to be writing songs about it. I hope he realises there are many of us that get that same catharsis listening to them.
Goes well with…
An open mind
Might suit people who like…
Thoughtful, life affirming songs that lift your heart while giving you something to consider.