Album Review: Tears for Fears - Everybody Loves a Happy Ending
published in City Monthly Magazine March 2004

"...and I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad, the dreams in which I'm dying are the best I ever had."

LA native Gary Jules nabbed last year's coveted UK Christmas #1 with a melancholy piano version of the Tears for Fears 1983 hit, "Mad World." Out of left field, the unknown Jules managed something the band he covered never did, a #1 single in the UK, and did it with a twenty year old melody, recorded two years previous and buried on a soundtrack to a forgotten movie (Donnie Darko).

Obliviously, and quite ironically, a few thousand miles away, Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith had quietly reunited and were toiling away in an LA studio, piecing together the album that would reunite the Tears for Fears for it's first recording since 1989's "The Seeds of Love," a profound, Beatle-esque burst of psychedelic power pop (and Top Ten hit).

“This is the album that should have followed Seeds Of Love in many ways,” says singer-songwriter Roland Orzabal, but that album's success, and its predecessor, 1985's "Songs from the Big Chair," with it's huge hits,"Everybody Wants To Rule the World" and "Shout," took its toll on their relationship, and the duo parted ways. From the beginning, the duo were tackling big subjects -- their name is derived from Arthur Janov's primal scream therapy, but the pressure was enormous. "Onstage I knew what my job was, and after an hour-and-a-half the crowd was going crazy, but singing “Shout” as an encore for the thousandth time, I thought, I’ve had enough of this. It was a tough trip.”

Orzabal bought the rights to the band's name and released two albums, 1993's brilliant and overlooked "Elemental", and 1995's "Raoul And The Kings Of Spain." The one sporadically genius work under his own name, "Tomcats Screaming Outside" had the luck to be released on September 11, 2001. “Fortunate timing,” he now notes with irony.

Meanwhile, Curt Smith recorded one album on his own, "Soul on Board," "which I hated," he says, and was never released in the US. He then formed Mayfield, with guitarist/songwriter Charlton Pettus, which released one album in 1998. “We started writing songs and then he persuaded me to start playing. So I just started playing clubs in New York and I had the best time ever. Because I would leave my apartment, walk to the club, play, and then walk home. It was basically rekindling my love of music, which was kind of for the right reasons — you do it because you actually want to do it, as opposed it just being a business, which is the side I didn’t really like.”

Eventually their paths crossed again, says Roland. "It was just a matter of time, really, before so much water passed under the bridge. And it was like -- well, what are we worried about? Let’s start chatting and see where it goes."

"Everybody Loves A Happy Ending" is the result, and the Beatles references in their last collaboration have taken firm root in the new material. Here's the cascade drumming from "Come Together," the chorus chant from "Hey Jude," the bouncing 'stereo' vocals from "Day Tripper", the bass vamp from "Lady Madonna," the bounding piano from "A Day in the Life", and backing vocals from "I am the Walrus." "When we did "Sowing The Seeds Of Love" we were doing Lennon,” says Roland.  “And I would say the main influence for this album was McCartney. Because,” he grins, "I think McCartney is the new Lennon."

Indeed, the albums central pieces are direct nods to 57 year old new father and still going strong Sir Paul, and that is not a bad thing. "Secret World" owes its feel to Wings' 1978 hit "Silly Love Songs, " with it's percolating rhythms, snappy horns, and sweeping string section. The energetic and spectacular "Who Killed Tangerine" borrows liberally from "Live and Let Die", and the title track ends with the line, "All the love will shine on everyone," echoing the sentiment of the Beatles' "All you need is Love," and is graced with a McCartney trademark "ooooh." But all the pieces fit, and it's all in glorious technicolor, Wonka-sized fun.

Full of arcane imagery, sparkling production, and intricate word plays matched only by its musical grandiosity, the album is rich with musical references, yet sounds fresh and inspired, and uniquely Tears for Fears. The layers of guitars and synths are all performed by the duo with Pettus, and the material is all newly written for the album, except for one track, an Orzabal composition, "Size of Sorrow." "It was from the period right after they broke up, so hearing Curt sing it was kind of an epiphany," states Pettus. " We thought it was a beautiful song so we messed around with it for a little while and loved it."

Well, as they say, everybody loves a happy ending.

Rod Reynolds

©2004 The Art Dept Los Angeles

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