Tears For Fears: Songs From The Big Chair

Prog-pop classic gets deluxe box set treatment.

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Roland Orzabal, the writing half of Tears For Fears, today considers their second album to be a hotchpotch of ideas, hardly the fully realised statement that its predecessor, 1982’s The Hurting, was.

Still, as hotchpotches go, it didn’t do badly, selling 10 million copies and bequeathing at least two of the biggest anthems of the 80s. And now it has been afforded the sort of lavish attention you’d expect of a record of its commercial magnitude. With six discs’ worth of material, including a 5.1 surround-sound mix by that man Steven Wilson, you could say Songs From The Big Chair has been well and truly progged. Listening to the original album, together with all the attendant remixes, edits, live versions and unreleased tracks, it’s actually very prog indeed, and not just because it features Crimson’s Mel Collins on sax and Andy Davis of Stackridge on piano. It’s there in the bombastic arrangements, the sheer pomp and circumstance of these songs exploring private grief and the public expression of the same. Shout is a fanfare for the common man, ditto the anthemic Everybody Wants To Rule The World, with its cavernous drums and lyric about the fatal lure of power. I Believe is, melodically, a sister song to Robert Wyatt’s Shipbuilding. Listen is exotic, out-of-this-world music whose first half recalls Japan and whose second is a barrage of keyboard arpeggios, female siren-sighs and guitar squeals that could easily be, if you close your eyes, Peter Gabriel circa So. Empire Building is 80s Yes duking it out with Art Of Noise’s Close (To The Edit), and check out the complex polyrhythms of The Conflict, and the grandiose piano pop of The Working Hour. The phrase ‘intimate immensity’ occurs, and while there are lots of machines on the album (this was the 80s, after all), there’s also plenty of virtuoso musicianship here.

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.