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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

1001. Tears for Fears / Songs From the Big Chair. 1985. 3/5

Back in 1985 this was one of those albums that just about everyone either had their own copy of, or had had someone record a copy for them on cassette. On the strength of the singles that were released from the album, it became one of those that was sought after. It was about the time that I had started to forge ahead and find albums of bands whose songs I liked rather than settle for just the radio songs available. Often you would get the album and discover songs that you liked more than those singles, that you would never have heard if not for getting the album. Others you would realise that the best of the crop had been the singles and the rest was a barren wasteland. Songs From the Big Chair is a little of both for me.

The album leads off with “Shout”, which was one of the popular singles that crowded the airwaves through 1984, and of which everyone from my generation knows. I’m sure it was on the local radio stations morning program every day for six months. It still seems to be as popular today as it was in the day. “The Working Hour” for me has always come across as a bit drab, not really carrying on from the energy of the opening track. It’s not a bad song but it lacks something. Perhaps it is just the fact that it is sandwiched between two such huge songs that it tends to pale a little.
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is the gold nugget of not only Tears For Fears career, but almost for the entire decade of the 1980’s. It is still a great song today. My kids in their school choir sing it. It opens the movie “Peter’s Friends” in the perfect way, playing over a montage of the ‘big picture’ moments between 1984 to 1994. It’s upbeat, and the lyrics perfectly portray how we as teenagers of the time felt about life in general. It still touches all of the right places when I listen to it today.
“Mothers Talk” is a lot closer to the kind of sampling technique that was finding its fashion in this period of the 1980’s and that was becoming more commercial as the decade moved on. For me it was never a song I cottoned on to, though on this album, coming as it did as the closing track to side one, I enjoyed it enough. As a song on its own however it wasn’t one I rated.
“I Believe” is a true soft ballad track. I never really understood it as the opening to the second side of the album, as there is no energy driving it in a rock or pop sense, it really is just a gentle reflective song. I’ve always though albums needed a punch as the opening tracks, especially in the vinyl and cassette days when it was important to build on two sides. I think it probably works better in a CD or digital space where you don’t have to get up to change the record or cassette over. This is followed by “Broken” where the energy flow returns, driven by the keys and synth. “Broken” segues into “Head Over Heels” which shares a similar piano chord progression in places with the previous song. The similarities seem even more related when this then segues into a live reprise of Broken that was recorded previous to the album being completed. The album is signed off by “Listen”. And let’s just say that “Listen” is far too much like a poor man’s rendition of a progressive rock style free form instrumental journey with some lyrics thrown in to the mix for me. It’s a bit too psychedelically unformed for me to enjoy I’m afraid.

As a pop album of its time this was one of the best. It may not have been my chosen genre of music at the time – that was geared more towards bands such as Queen and The Police and Midnight Oil at the time, and was about to go full blown into the heavy metal phase – but it was still an album that gained my attention and that I played a lot. On reflection today I still think it holds up well for its style and age.

Rating:  “Welcome to your life, there’s no turning back”.   3/5
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