Tears For Fears

Cover_SongsFrom_300CMYK-editedTears For Fears
Songs From the Big Chair-Super Deluxe Edition
Mercury/UME
by David Chiu

Originally released in 1985, Songs From the Big Chair, Tears For Fears’ second album, symbolized a shift in British pop music’s direction during the decade: from the shiny and glamorous synthesizer-driven escapist music of the New Romantics, to something more thoughtful and serious. Tears For Fears specialized on the latter approach for its 1983 debut album, the dark and melancholy The Hurting, which was very post-punk and anti-establishment–and yet still managed to yield hit singles in “Pale Shelter,” “Change,” and the classic “Mad World.” In comparison, the sound on Songs From the Big Chair was lighter in tone and more accessible, but the lyrics remained mature and complex like that of the debut. Not surprisingly, this was a game-changing record for the duo of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, as Songs From the Big Chair became hit thanks to the memorable hits “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” “Shout” and “Head Over Heels.” (Imagine going from black-and-white to Technicolor if you compare The Hurting to Songs). Augmented by the contributions of keyboardist Ian Stanley and producer Chris Hughes, Orzabal and Smith crafted — for all its radio-friendliness — an ambitious-sounding record that marked turning point in music for the rest in which artists started to look inward: “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” still sounds timeless as a critique as well as an anthem of the ’80s, while “Shout” is perhaps one of rock’s greatest protest songs. But the pop friendliness of those aforementioned hits shouldn’t overshadow the rest of the album tracks, which are very eclectic and progressive: the soulful”I Believe”; the dynamic rocker “Broken”; and the elegant and majestic art rock of “Listen.” Similar to the special deluxe edition of The Hurting from last year, Songs From the Big Chair is marking its 30th anniversary as a 4CD/2 DVD-set containing a massive amount of bonus tracks from the period: B-sides, remixes and singles and alternate versions galore from “Everybody Wants to Run the World,” to an early mix of “Shout.” Several live cuts for the BBC and from a Toronto concert grace the set. There is no denying the enduring appeal of Songs From the Big Chair three decades later — similar to other ’80s albums such as Peter Gabriel’s So or U2’s The Joshua Tree, it accomplishes the rare feat of balancing both commercial aspirations and artistic integrity.

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