The Hurting

Tears For Fears

Mercury, 1983

http://tearsforfears.com

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/08/2007

Right from the start, British duo Tears For Fears were determined not to play it safe.  Sure, they could have put out a lightweight pop record as so many of their contemporaries did in 1983, but this wasn’t your typical British synth-pop act. 

With a name like Tears For Fears, you can almost expect the material to be serious and dark in tone. And on this debut, it did seem as though these two troubled souls had a lot to get off their chests.

As heavy and intellectual as Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith may have wanted to be, it undoubtedly presented a challenging situation for their producers (Chris Hughes and Ross Cullum) and record company.  How could they possibly market these songs with such grim subjects as child abuse? The music couldn’t be too obscure, since it needed to find an audience first. So instead of giving the album a big promotional push, it was decided that they would just slip it into the marketplace and see if anyone would take notice.  nbtc__dv_250

So, The Hurting can be best described as synth-pop for the intellectual set, making it no wonder that the Brits took to this album more than the Americans. With brassy sounds and complex electronic percussion throughout, this album pushes the boundariesof what New Wave had the potential to be back in 1983.  Yes, the tone was serious, at times even oppressive, but otherwise it is a fascinating and surprisingly brisk listen. 

If nothing else, it set the stage perfectly for Tears For Fears’ big breakthrough, Songs From The Big Chair, where they would continue to explore even weightier subject matter. What sets The Hurting apart from their subsequent albums is that it is one of the most important and fully realized concept albums to come out of the '80s. If making a statement in an understated way was their desire, they more than met their noble goal.

The singles “Mad World” and “Pale Shelter” only scratch the surface when it comes to the many high points that are to be found here.  The biggest surprise is “Suffer The Children,” which is a catchy, upbeat number that flies in the face of the grim child abuse theme. It even features a great triumphant child-like vocal by Roland’s wife Caroline.  Another standout cut is “Ideas As Opiates,” which is a sparsely arranged techno-gospel song, if there ever was such a thing.  The song that takes a while to grow on you is “Change,” which was selected as the sole U.S. single release.

Those expecting variation in its material may be disappointed by an album like this.  All the songs flow into each other seamlessly, so it can be tricky to differentiate between most of them. The one exception to this can be found in the one sub-par track, “The Prisoner.”  Instead of being merely claustrophobic, it comes off as ingratiating. The closer “Start Of The Breakdown” is something of a disappointment too, due to its unfocused vocal and melody lines. 

Despite veering slightly off-track toward the end, The Hurting is one of those timeless albums that never seems to get old with repeated listens.  For newcomers to Tears For Fears, the best place for you to start is the very beginning.

Rating: B+

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© 2007 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mercury, and is used for informational purposes only.