Friday, May 15, 2015

Tears For Fears 2: Songs From The Big Chair

If we had the knack of predicting what would be a hit song, we’d be a lot wealthier today. We’d also could’ve been able to explain how the second album by Tears For Fears became such a mega-success worldwide. And deservedly so.
A title like Songs From The Big Chair is just begging for interpretation, even after the photogenic duo (not quite as dreamy as Wham!, but still) explained that it was yet another reference to psychotherapy. Videos helped too, though it wasn’t until their third single that America (and MTV) took notice. Simply enough, in the two years since their debut, they’d progressed from a borderline techno outfit to a band, melding modern sounds with more organic ones.
A programmed drum pattern provides a few bars of restraint before “Shout” crashes in, its chorus repeated for maximum retention while a lengthy guitar solo sees the song out. (There’s a lot of guitar on this album, keeping the sound fresh.) A saxophone dominates “The Working Hour”, from the slow intro to the motifs between the verses. One of the few songs on the album that wasn’t a single, it’s a good bridge to “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”, which also uses guitar along with the programmed sounds. A sampled swell of strings introduces “Mothers Talk”, possibly the most dated track here, and arguably the low point.
The saxophone returns to color “I Believe”, an overwrought but still moving piano ballad that sets up the mini-suite that comes next. “Broken” is an upbeat dance track without vocals until the near end, bringing in a motif and quote from “Head Over Heels”, the third (and best) single with the wackiest video. The single version ends with the final “time flies”, but the album segues into a live excerpt of “Broken”. As the applause fades, “Listen” creeps in, the most experimental track lyrically, since there aren’t that many, not counting the Spanish phrase that these ears still hear as “comb-be-on-a-chickie-na-na-poopa-say”.
This is a cursory summary of the album, mostly because the best-known songs are so well known we can’t add much. But while the singles were all good, Songs From The Big Chair holds together very well as an album, a continuous listening experience. Its stature as one of the most popular albums of the ‘80s is displayed by its three reissues in three different decades—first adding a few B-sides as bonus tracks, then a two-CD Deluxe Edition with even more remixes and alternates, and most recently a Super Deluxe Edition with four CDs covering all the related songs in multiple versions (including live recordings and BBC performances) plus DVDs with 5.1 audio and video content. So if you can’t get enough of all those hit singles, have at it.

Tears For Fears Songs From The Big Chair (1985)—4
1999 remastered CD: same as 1985, plus 7 extra tracks
2006 Deluxe Edition: same as 1985, plus 20 extra tracks
2013 Super Deluxe 30th Anniversary Edition: same as 1999, plus 44 extra tracks (and 2 DVDs)

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