Tears For Fears, back with their first new album in 18 years, gives middle finger to music industry compliance
Expectations were high when Tears For Fears co-founders Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal reunited in 2015 to record what would have been the first new album by the once chart-topping English music duo since ‘Everybody Loves a Happy Ending” in 2004.
A year and 12 finished songs later, the two were so unhappy with the result that they took drastic measures to ensure audiences would never hear it.
Before long, they dumped their manager and negotiated their way out of their recording contract. But it wasn’t the most radical step for the two frustrated musicians, who first teamed up as teenagers in 1978.
“We bought Warner Bros album. so he couldn’t get out,” said Smith, whose 2022 Tears For Fears tour with Orzabal includes a concert in San Diego next Sunday at the North Island Credit Union Amphitheater. “It wasn’t an album we were proud of, but they would have released it.”
“I think management just didn’t trust us,” Orzabal said. “Basically they didn’t trust us – and I think they regret that now.”
Either way, Smith and Orzabal leave no doubt that they were happy to have followed their instincts. They let their quest for creativity take precedence over commercial concerns by rejecting the idea they had of designing up-to-date hits.
“The Tipping Point” was released February 25 via Concord/Craft Records. It’s Tears For Fears’ first album of new songs in 18 years – and only the second since Smith reunited with Orzabal in 2000, after devoting 19 years to his solo career. It’s also the most assured, engaging and musically unusual work of the 41-year-old duo’s career.
“A little insulting”
The story of how this elegant and carefully crafted album came to be – and how it nearly didn’t happen at all – serves as a fascinating cautionary tale for fans and for young and seasoned musicians alike.
It’s a tale that shines a light on a music industry eager to adopt formulas and loath to take risks that could jeopardize potential profits. And it’s the story of what happens when veteran artists are forced to team up with young “hot” pop hit creators, after the veterans are branded by their record label and manager as an act. “heritage”.
This stuffy designation is often used to describe bands and solo artists whose commercial heyday occurred decades ago. Their paydays come from playing their old hits live, over and over, night after night, not new albums. That’s why Tears For Fears, now a former record company and ex-manager, tried to discourage Smith and Orzabal from even making a new album.
Then again, why even bother to come up with new songs – let alone entire albums – if you’re viewed solely as a nostalgia-fueled slot machine by the powers that be?
“We were told we were very much like a ‘heritage’ act, which we find slightly insulting,” said Smith, 60, speaking from his longtime home in Los Angeles.
“Because to use that term, ‘heritage’, is to say, ‘You have nothing worth saying right now. But you used to, so we respect you for that. So that’s a roundabout insult.
Orzabal, 60, agreed.
“It’s quite simple: if you are an artist, you need make music, because you live your life,” he said in a separate interview from Los Angeles.
“And the desire, the deep desire to express yourself, does not go away. I’m serious box leave. Life can become stagnant. You may find yourself in a bad place and not feel the need or the ability to express things on the deep, deep level that we have in the past.
A quietly defiant middle finger
The depth of expression that Tears For Fears is still able to achieve is underscored by “The Tipping Point’s” sublime opening number, “No Small Thing.”
Going against expectations, the song begins so quietly and quietly that some longtime fans might think they’re listening to another band. “No Small Thing” then unfolds gradually, before reaching a psychedelic orchestral climax that evokes the end of the Beatles epic “A Day in the Life”.
The result is a wonderfully surprising song that changes shape and evolves at a leisurely pace. It sounds like both a mission statement and a major for the music industry as a whole – and the former manager and record label of Tears For Fears in particular.
“Yeah, I think it is what it is,” Orzabal said.
“That is absolutely correct.” Smith agreed. “It is, as you say, a statement of intent. This song and this album is a journey that we ask you to take. We intentionally put ‘No Small Thing’ as the first song because people’s first reaction is going to be, ‘Oh, that’s not the Tears For Fears that I know. We wrote the song on acoustic guitars, that’s why it starts like that.
Then there is the “Master Plan”. A plaintive, mid-tempo song, its lyrics take direct aim at the forces that have attempted to bring Tears For Fears into line with the expectations of the band’s new album.
Witness the concluding verse of the “Master Plan”: It’s not who I am / It’s just part of the master plan / I feel rage / I need faith / If my soul is damned / It’s all part of the master plan.
Did Tears For Fears send a copy of the “Master Plan” to his former manager?
“Roland was tempted to send it to our former manager with the word ‘legacy,'” Smith said.
“I didn’t,” Orzabal said. “To be honest, I haven’t spoken to him since Curt and I parted ways with him. I don’t know what he thinks of the record and I don’t particularly care.
“It’s a fact: you’ll get the best out of people by encouraging them, and we just haven’t figured that out. When Curt and I were on the road before (on tour), we had conflicts. I think our former manager pitted us against each other and played us against each other.
What the album “Master Plan”, “No Small Thing” and “The Tipping Point” as a whole represents, in the end, is a melodious rebellion. It’s a living documentation of two seasoned musicians who reject predictability and the tropes of the music business in order to reclaim their artistic integrity.
” To buckle the buckle “
“The beauty of the whole experience is that we’ve finally come full circle,” Orzabal said.
“We own what we do and accept that the only person you really have to please is yourself. Pleasing Curt and myself is not an easy thing, so we know we’re on the right track. And, yeah, it’s a middle finger, which is kind of a brave thing.
Equally courageous, at least by today’s cookie-cutter pop standards, is the minute-plus instrumental introduction to “The Tipping Point’s” deeply moving title track.
In a time when more and more hit songs are little more than 15- or 30-second TikTok videos, devoting so much time to an instrumental intro feels like a move the former Tears For executive and record label Fears would consider commercial. suicide.
“Oh, definitely,” Smith said. “They wouldn’t let us do songs longer than three minutes. These songs are as long as we want. It is important to have different moods. Our previous (manager and record company) we were involved with would have been happy to have 12 versions of the same song.
The title track for “The Tipping Point” was inspired by the 2017 death of Orzabal’s wife, who had long struggled with depression and alcoholism.
“I’ve been through a couple of pretty tough years,” said Orzabal, who in 2021 married American writer and photographer Emily Rath.
“I think,” Smith added, “anytime we make music, it’s cathartic, and it comes from where we come from. We’re both individually and emotionally (reserved) at the same time. But in times of crisis or pain, we tend to stop pain by playing music, listening to music, or writing songs, in this case he was writing songs.
“We almost always turn to songwriting when we’re going through turmoil. When we are happy, we very rarely pick up a guitar. It’s not who we are.
Orzabal and Smith are thrilled to now be on their first world tour since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. They’re also excited about the idea of mixing five or six new songs from “The Tipping Point” with new songs. such experienced. real favorites like “Shout”, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Mad World”.
“When you’re young and have the talent, the ambition and the fundamental understanding of the musical fashions of the time, you can be hugely successful,” Orzabal said. “But life is a journey, personal and spiritual, not just a career.
“So I think it took a long time for Curt and I to get a clear idea of our new identity. This new identity depends on age, but we finally got there. And once we did that leap and accepted who we are and what our role is in the music industry and in the world, so it all fell into place.
“At some point you get older and we embrace it. That’s why our hair dye went out the window! We can still do it. Just because we’re older doesn’t mean we’re not important.
Tears For Fears, with garbage
When: 7:30 p.m. next Sunday
Where: North Island Credit Union Amphitheater, 2050 Entertainment Circle, Chula Vista
Tickets: $29.50 to $99.50 plus service charge
On line: livenation.com