Tears For Fears: Everybody Loves A Happy Ending
Label: New Door
Sound/Style: Potent pop/rock with modern and classic elements
By Steve Morley
(UMCom) -- In the mid-1980s, Tears For Fears’ massive success came seemingly from out of nowhere. This was especially the case in the United States, where the duo’s dark-hued debut The Hurting, a brisk seller in the United Kingdom, was largely overlooked. Their emotionally charged breakup and subsequent fall from commercial grace by the decade’s end made them suitable candidates for the “where are they now” file, despite an international following and an ongoing series of compilation CDs and individual solo efforts from co-founders Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith. Although their presence on the pop scene never dimmed entirely, the original Tears For Fears haven’t recorded an album together since 1989’s The Seeds Of Love. That disc’s late-period Beatles influences are the primary threads connecting the newly reconciled duo’s work to Everybody Loves A Happy Ending. In fact, Tears’ affection for The Beatles (and late ‘60s rock in general) is worn plainly in not only the music but also on the CD’s post-psychedelic cover art by Alan Aldridge, best known for his surreal interpretations of Beatles songs in his book The Beatles’ Illustrated Lyrics. The record can’t be called a return to form, as it is actually a forward progression from their prior recordings that only occasionally harks back to the brooding, synth-soaked sound of their quintuple-platinum Songs From The Big Chair. As they did on that record, however, Orzabal and Smith again demonstrate their knack for deftly straddling the commercial and the experimental.
The title track is an unpredictable mini-suite that moves between shades of Pink Floyd and strains of acoustic country-folk, centered by a spirited staccato rock feel and inventive melodic turns. The bold and dynamic musical hybrid heard here is indicative of the entire disc, on which Tears For Fears try on a variety of styles and wear most of them surprisingly well. The moody atmospherics for which the band was first known have been effectively integrated via sound effects, short interludes and song segments. This allows a sonic mystery to prevail despite the noticeably airier arrangements, which retain substance but lose the weight of Tears’ dramatic previous work. For instance, “Size Of Sorrow” starts off like a bleak-sounding Tears retread but quickly morphs into a loping, reggaefied rock number. “Call Me Mellow” rides upon an instantly engaging chorus and supple dual guitar lines, while “Who Killed Tangerine” employs melodically pleasing multi-tracked vocals and a looping chorus that invokes “Hey Jude” and “I Am The Walrus” without copycatting.
The lyrics, however intelligently written and substantial, have little in the way of overt meanings or a unifying theme. They address the presence of danger, doubt and cynicism but tentatively explore spiritual solutions. Orzabal alludes to “prisoners taken by force” in “The Devil” and goes on to say “I can die, but I can’t hide from you/the way is clear – away from here and you.” On “Closest Thing To Heaven,” the singers pose the insecure inquiry “is there a welcome here?” but later determine that the best response is to proactively “throw your arms around the world/make love your destination/here we go, boys and girls/act like a generation.” The disc’s most desperate outcry appears on “The Quiet Ones” – “oh, salvation, shine a light on a different world.”
The world is indeed a different one since last hearing from Tears For Fears. Tears doesn’t offer much in the way of life-altering sentiments on Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, but they nonetheless show that, musically speaking, their best years may only be beginning.
Steve Morley is a freelance music journalist living in College Grove, Tenn.
This review was developed by UMC.org, the official online ministry of the United Methodist Church.