Songs From The Big Chair

Tears For Fears

Mercury, 1985

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


In the ‘60s, there was Simon & Garfunkel. Then, in the ‘70s, the dynamic duo was Donny & Marie. As far as the ‘80s went, there were a multitude of musical pairs to choose from – and most of them were British. Perhaps the most successful of them all was Tears For Fears. Even though they only would put out four albums while they were together (their last “swan song” album, Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, was released in 2004), Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith could always be relied on for crafting a quality product. Described as “music for the intellectual set,” often audiences struggled with this type of challenging and dense material.

Their second album, Songs From The Big Chair has the sprawl and feel of a concept album. It’s a rather impenetrable affair that takes a few listens to fully appreciate. The fact that this album was more successful here in my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 America than it was in the UK was a surprise, to say the least. After the mindless pop of Wham!, it seemed to be the perfect time for something a little more substantial. Actually, “The Working Hour” does sound a little like Wham’s “Careless Whisper,” so maybe that’s why the track never became a single.

Speaking of hit singles, this album has four of them. When all was said and done, half of Songs From The Big Chair was played on the radio at one time or another. You’ve got the 1985 summer anthem “Shout,” Tears For Fears’ first #1 song “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” and the uncharacteristic rock tune “Mothers Talk.” There’s also “Head Over Heels,” which was a top ten hit (though I’ve always preferred The Go-Go’s song of the same name). And as much as I continue to love “Shout,” I must say that “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” is a dazzling pop number that sparkles even brighter the more I hear it.

The two formless slow songs in the album’s second half (the jazzy “I Believe” and the odd minimalist piece “Listen”) do tend to disrupt the flow, but thankfully, there’s “Broken” to, well, help break up the monotony. The song gets things back on track so effectively that there is even a reprise tacked onto the end of “Head Over Heels” for emphasis. From what I understand, there are even a bunch of bonus tracks on the re-mastered Deluxe edition that undoubtedly make this classic album even more so.

Guided by the steady hand of producer Chris Hughes, Songs From The Big Chair remains Tears For Fears’ sole shining moment. Their follow-up, The Seeds Of Love, was lacking the intrigue of their previous efforts, not to mention focus. When Curt left, all momentum for this promising act was lost and even their subsequent reunion would prove to be short-lived. Still, if you want to make your mark in the music world, sometimes one solid album with a powerful statement is all you ever need.

Rating: A

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Head Over Heels is a great song, a dark pop masterpiece that has aged well. As for the pop duos of the 80s, you'd almost have to go with Hall & Oates, at least in the first part of the decade.

© 2008 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.