Friday, February 20, 2015

Tears For Fears 1: The Hurting

Synth-pop was huge in the early ‘80s, and even bands that didn’t have any real songwriting talent could fall back on production to stand out from the pack. Tears For Fears straddled that territory very well by matching modern sounds to mopey lyrics about the pain of childhood. Much of The Hurting covers that theme, with song titles taken from the works of Arthur Janov, the inventor of primal scream therapy.
But even with that source, the album is catchy. Its three hit singles still stand out in particular: “Mad World”, with its robotic drums and taunting fake trumpets; “Pale Shelter”, built on a straight rock beat and acoustic major-sevenths; and “Change”, driven by edgy marimbas. All were sung by bass player Curt Smith, who was the prettier of the two boys featured on the record sleeves. (The other one, Roland Orzabal, did all the writing, channeling his angst through a series of unfortunate haircuts.) Peter Gabriel’s influence looms large, particularly on “Ideas As Opiates”, which begins sounding a lot like “Biko”, and spending a minute chasing correct pitch at the end. “Start Of The Breakdown” utilizes a Yamaha electric piano familiar from Gabriel records as well. Mel Collins, once of King Crimson and lately with Dire Straits, adds saxophone when asked.
Despite the overwrought “Memories Fade” and “Watch Me Bleed”, gloom does not rule the day here. “Suffer The Children” is a lot cheerier than one might expect, especially in comparison to the Smiths song of a similar title. Even the title track builds into textbook early ‘80s ear candy. That said, “The Prisoner” is extremely abrasive, and would have made a better B-side (which it was, and is included with plenty more variations, remixes and BBC recordings of the album’s songs in the latest Super Deluxe Edition reissue).
A lot of The Hurting sounds dated, but again, take those three singles and they’re even better out of context. And there was no indication they’d ever progress beyond this.

Tears For Fears The Hurting (1983)—3
1999 remastered CD: same as 1983, plus 4 extra tracks
2013 Super Deluxe 30th Anniversary Edition: same as 1983, plus 26 extra tracks and DVD

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