Tears for Fears



by Holden Caulfield USER (12 Reviews)
August 4th, 2014 | 6 replies

Release Date: 1993 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Go get a life an’ ease the pain

Curt Smith’s decision to split from the group was simple: Roland wanted a frustratingly fast pace in terms of recording and releasing material and Curt Smith’s divorce prior to The Seeds of Love world tour. Another reason include the band’s manager filing for bankruptcy and screwing the band over due to discrepancies in their paychecks. After old Curt split from Tears for Fears, old Roland was on his oddy knocky making up his rassodock what to do. After some shouting and letting it all out, the final product of sounds like a more pop oriented version of Pink Floyd’s album The Final Cut (although I actually really love that album).

Roland pretty much plays every instrument on the album with some people occasionally credited for playing an extra instrument on a single song, while also being the executive producer (besides the other exec produces; Tim Palmer [Pearl Jam] and Andy Griffiths respectively).

Listening to this record once and the listener may have a very mixed response based on their familiarity with the band: A listener who is unfamiliar with the band may acknowledge the record as an interesting psychedelic, experimental approach to Alternative/Indie rock while a person who is familiar with their work may wonder just what the hell Roland was doing in the studio.

For starters, the lyrics are all incredibly cryptic. Indeed the band has written several songs with lyrics that are hard to decipher, but the lyrics to most, if not every, song is pure nonsense. Take for example “Break it Down Again,” the biggest single on the album. The lyrics start with uplifting encouragement to “stand tall like a man” with a “head as strong like a horse” before rambling off into how rotting waste seeps underground and “Moses on a Motorbike.” “Brian Wilson Said” sounds like a cute, mediocrely generic Christmas song with lyrics so silly, absurd, Syd Barrett would turn in his grave. The only song with lyrics that are vaguely straightforward is the song “Fish Out of Water” which is practically Roland telling old Curt “How do you sleep at night you c*nt?!”

Musically, the album is an experimental hodgepodge. The opener and title track starts off with a tribal-like drum beating as if to kick-start a cult ceremony while ambient synthesizers and funky guitar licks are played in the background. Right after the first verse, the song transforms into what may sound like The Red Hot Chili Peppers attempting to perform 80s new wave music. Lyrically, the song may be about standing up for yourself in a sea of homogenic mediocrity, but more often than not the lyrics dive into an ocean of crypticness it’s hard to tell what the point Roland is trying to get across.

The next song is “Cold” in which the title derives from Roland giving a paparazzi the “cold shoulder” and the paparazzi later sending him a letter asking Roland why he is so “cold.” Right at the get-go, however, a distorted guitar drives the song into a dreamy rock atmosphere with blazing synths and subtle bass work Roland himself. Lyrically, however, the song may share a similar theme as the title track, or perhaps a love that was never meant to be, but suffers from too much silly ambiguity. The only real tangible lyric is when Roland raps (yes, raps) softly before the second chorus: “King got caught with his fingers in the till; Where's your calculator, will you leave it in your will?” King derives from the ex-manager’s name Paul King who has sued for fraud and filed for bankruptcy.

In terms of “rock” in this record, “Dog’s a Best Friend’s Dog” is a ludicrous (as well as the best) example of this. Roland literally showcases his guitar work in what sounds like a Slash-wannabe kind of way while the rest of the instruments have Heavy Metal bleeding all over it. Yes, “Dog’s a Best Friend’s Dog” is a “Heavy Metal” song making it the heaviest song Tears for Fears has ever released. There are multiple solos and plenty of guitar feedback while Roland literally barks and commands the nonsensical lyrics. The song is crazy catchy and will get every metal head listening to the song banging their heads. “Fish Out of Water” is a straightforward Indie Rock tune with lyrics taking (futile) stabs at Curt. “Goodbye Song” is a corny/generic mainstream pop-rock tune that aptly sounds like a swan song.

As I’ve said before, “Break it Down Again” is a lyrical trainwreck, but the music is very interesting, making the song much less painful than it potentially may be. The song kickstarts with triumphant synths replicating brass trumpets from heaven, while a deathly soldier drum beat loops and faint opera singers vocalize before Roland gets the song rolling with the first verse. From the first verse till its end, the song is a crazy mix between funk rock, electronic dance, and even subtle hints of hard rock in its guitar work.

“Mr. Pessimist” is arguably the most experimental song on the record. The synths are very ambient with a very jazzy piano playing behind it, artificial drums looping and guitar feedback playing very faintly in the background. The song sounds like an electronic reinterpretation of prog rock music, the song clocking over 6 minutes and interesting experimentation on the instruments towards the 1 ½ minutes of the song. Personally, the only thing I could grasp on the song’s lyrics is that it may be a stab at Christianity, especially with the overt lyric “Listen, Mr. Pessimister with your Catholic taste; We Do Not Relate!” but the lyrics tend to go on different tangents.

“Gas Giants” is a short 2 minute ambient interlude with its only lyrics being “Giants caught on Armistice Day; Caught between the rock and the renegade.” Perhaps the song is about war, Armistice Day being
a sort of thing associated with Veterans Day in the U.S. but that’s all I can guess.

“Power” sounds more like a rock oriented version of “Mr. Pessimist” but the music fails to be as captivating and ends up sounding incredibly stale and the cryptic lyrics about “seeking power; power how/power wow/*etc*” and “hungry babies coming of age.”

However, the ironic thing about the songs is that the b-sides of the single sound better than many of the songs actually on the record. “Bloodletting Go” and “Schrödinger's Cat” (B-Sides of “Break it Down Again respectively) are incredible tracks to behold. “Bloodletting Go” is a trippy ambient pop song with tangible lyrics about the toughness of not giving up; “Schrödinger's Cat” is an epic 5 minute song with Roland mumbling “Door Hinge(?)” loops throughout the instrumental interludes, incredible guitar solos, and schizophrenic synth loops all backed behind Roland’s distorted vocals. Indeed the lyrics are incredibly cryptic, but so is the history behind the term “Schrodinger’s Cat” (way, way too complicated to explain) and the cryptic lyrics to nothing to stop the song from actually being one of Tears for Fears’ best songs in general.

Alas, I would love to go on about the rest of the B-Sides, but much like I cannot write a review based on my playlist of The Beatles’ White Album which excludes my least favorite songs and are replaced with my favorite songs released/recorded that time (“Hey Jude” and “What’s the New Mary Jane” for instance) I cannot rate this album encompassing the B-Sides, as competent as they are.

As an album itself, it is not all bad. On a good day, I may recommend this album if a friend is bored and wants to listen to an album that is interestingly experimental and accessible. But on a bad day, this would be one of the last albums I would recommend and certainly the last album I would recommend to a friend to get him/her to dig Tears for Fears.

Tracklist Ratings:

Break it Down Again~2.5/5
Mr. Pessimist~4.3/5
Dog’s a Best Friend’s Dog~5/5
Fish Out of Water~3/5
Gas Giants~3/5
Brian Wilson Said~1/5
Goodnight Song~1.5/5

Rating Outside of Tears for Fears’ Standards: 3/5

Rating Within Tears for Fears’ Standards: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

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user ratings (48)

Comments:Add a Comment 
August 3rd 2014


Album Rating: 2.5

Feelin real confident bout this un :---)

Contributing Reviewer
August 4th 2014


Decent review but you're running on for way too long. Instead of meticulously doing every track just compress your main thoughts into a few paragraphs, it makes for a much less clunky read.

March 15th 2015


Album Rating: 3.0

album rules fuck the average.

Digging: Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas

September 26th 2015


Album Rating: 5.0

I appreciate the effort you put in to explain how you were experiencing this album. I agree with every positive thing you wrote, and that you definitely hear experimental (Prog) aspects.

I gathered most of your negative feelings came from the 'cryptic' lyrics; but, just like you stated about Fish Out Of Water, I believe the lyrics on the songs are mostly about Curt. Curt leaving. Curt not believing in his inner song. Curt not being true to his nature, as an artist. It's also about how Roland was dealing with the loss of Curt, and what future artistic direction Roland was going to explore.

As with all TFF albums, the lyrics also deal with authenticity. Not only authenticity for oneself, but also the battle against in-authentic people, who desire to enshrine their Fears, and manipulate a false sense of security through destructive political and financial influence.

When I first heard the album, I admit, I didn't feel like it was their best album. I am more in tune with Roland's artistic spirit, but I felt there was something lacking without Curt; but only in relation to the TFF 'sound'.

However, over the years, I find myself coming back to this album, again and again. It's maturity is appreciated like an aged wine. It takes time to experience the nuances of emotion, because they are subtle concentrations of musical prowess. Roland is a beast. And on top of that, he has one the best voices in music.

September 26th 2015


Album Rating: 4.5

After old Curt split from Tears for Fears, old Roland was on his oddy knocky making up his rassodock what to do. After some shouting and letting it all out,


Digging: Botany - Dimming Awe, The Light Is Raw

November 9th 2015


Torontonian is right, the album rules, no way around it--spend time with it and you will, in fact, keep coming back.

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