Tears For Fears
Songs from the Big Chair


4.5
superb

Review

by Fluorine USER (5 Reviews)
June 17th, 2011 | 87 replies | 15,740 views


Release Date: 1985 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Find out what this fear is about.

7 of 7 thought this review was well written

I hate that album cover. It suggests a sort of introspective quietude by two men with very dated hair who claim to have found the big truths to life from the condescending position of some metaphorical big chair. Of course, none of this (aside from these guys having dated hair) is correct at all. Songs From the Big Chair is a big and colorful album matched by big production and big hooks steeped in a sentiment of insecurity and fear. It would be a case where I would bring out the idiom “Don’t judge a book/album by its cover,” but it’s clear that the advice has already been taken. Songs from the Big Chair was a massive success in 1985, sporting a flurry of chart-topping singles and sales of many millions to its credit. It’s an instance where popularity was backed by great content.

The big selling point of Tears for Fears in their early albums is the expert pop songcraft, and none of that is lost here. However, as is the case on many sophomore albums by successful artists, Roland Orzabal, Curt Smith, and co. expand their sound. The songs here are much bigger in magnitude and longer than those on their fantastic debut The Hurting which mixed its confessional, personal lyrics with a smaller but still dynamic atmosphere. On this release, Orzabal and Smith spend less time looking inward, opting to broaden their vision, and it shows in the music. Shout serves as the perfect opener for the band’s second album, not only because it aesthetically fits the role with its rousing anthemics, but also because thematically, it demonstrates clearly a transitional step from the previous album. It features sentiments that would have fit perfectly on The Hurting, unloading mounds of emotional baggage pent up from adolescent angst pointing fingers at misunderstanding parents and authority, but these lyrics are filtered through a new lens suitable for Shout’s stadium-ready design. Orzabal invokes a communal frustration and directly urges you and everyone to “Shout it all out”. Songs from the Big Chair introduces Tears For Fears’s interpretation of the Arthur Janov’s primal scream ideology to a more extroverted sound and comes off as less of an exorcising of personal demons and more of a confrontation with the world at large.

The new magnanimity comes full force on Mothers Talk, the most rambunctious song here. Full of big, jerky beats coming from everywhere, it somehow manages to mix disparate themes of nuclear war paranoia and traumatizing superstitions passed on by mothers. Like the topic, the song itself is perhaps too formless and jagged for its own good, but elsewhere, free-flowing songs like Listen and The Working Hour leave big impressions. Listen is about as “experimental” as Tears For Fears got as it’s basically a soothing seven-minute, keyboard--led soundscape with sparse lyrics thrown in that once again seem to reference the Cold War. While Listen revels in being subdued, The Working Hour is a busy, emotionally charged song with the best vocal performance Roland Orzabal ever put to tape. To top it off, the song is flanked by a couple of beautiful saxophone solos which add a luscious feel to the song’s rolling, propulsive rhythms. I’m going to step away from feigning objectivity as a reviewer and assert that this song is one of my personal favorites and certainly Tears For Fears at their finest.

Regardless of what I think, you can make judgments for yourself on Everybody Wants to Rule the World and Head Over Heels. Chances are you’ve already heard both of these songs, in some form, so there’s no need to mention how great they are or how huge and inviting the hook on Head Over Heels is. Both songs are surrounded by great material. The album as a whole moves very well with only eight songs, all of which are memorable, distinctive, and huge. Unfortunately, Songs from the Big Chair would be the last release from the band before they fell into bloated mediocrity. Still, it’s a tremendously enjoyable and well-crafted album packed full of gems, and it’s a delightful and essential listen for anyone interested in 80s pop and new wave.


user ratings (191)
Chart.
4.1
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
KILL
June 17th 2011



70599 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

my dad likes this shit cool

Digging: Gal Costa - Gal Costa

bloc
June 17th 2011



34679 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album rips

Digging: Anberlin - Lowborn

KILL
June 17th 2011



70599 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i'll check it out but yea thats a gay ass cover

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
June 17th 2011



16134 Comments


Great album.

Fluorine
June 17th 2011



104 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, I actually almost wrote that the cover also suggested vague homoeroticism, but thought it was a bit too off topic.
Anyway, I only reviewed this because it was sorely lacking one...and because I love The Working Hour so much.

Titan50
June 17th 2011



4588 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sudden love for Tears For Fears on Sputnik

I like

WashboardSuds
June 17th 2011



4984 Comments


surprised this didn't have a review :/

good album

Digging: Acid Bath - When the Kite String Pops

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
June 17th 2011



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great album but i prefer their debut to this, although i know very few will agree with me.

GulliKyro
June 17th 2011



357 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

cracking record.

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
June 17th 2011



49791 Comments


Tears For Queers.


Digging: Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) - You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

Fluorine
June 17th 2011



104 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Well, I actually agree with you, Tom. The Hurting is better.
But whenever I listen to this one, I always surprise myself with how much I like it.

Waior
June 17th 2011



11425 Comments


Great review, mate.

bloc
June 17th 2011



34679 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Said it before and I'll say it again: I think this and The Hurting are right on par with each other.

MarkvandenBerg
June 18th 2011



71 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The percussion intro to Shout brings back so many awesome childhood memories! I still love this album 25 years later. Yes, I'm an old bastard!

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
June 18th 2011



5921 Comments


I really like their video clips back in the 80's, really powerful stuff.

Digging: Essence Beyond - Carnivalism

TheMushuPork
June 18th 2011



462 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Definatly a pop masterpiece.

rebel86
June 26th 2011



132 Comments


I think I had planned to write a review for this last year, but never got around to it. I use to listen to this album religiously in high school. My baby boomer aunt got me into it, because she was obsessed with it when it came out in '85. I really love this album. It's like '80s new wave Radiohead.

foxblood
August 9th 2011



6797 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

every track could work as a single, and basically all of them were hits. and god damn broken, it's just ridiculous

Wizard
August 19th 2011



19231 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Don't know why, but I find myself listening to this from time to time.

Digging: Monarch - Sabbracadaver

Fluorine
August 29th 2011



104 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I was listening to Head Over Heels today and am now of the opinion that there is absolutely no greater 80s pop song.



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