Tears for Fears | Songs from the Big Chair Deluxe Edition (Island)

cd tears-for-fearsThe band’s sophomore effort succeeded in replacing “me” with “us,” putting the listener into the world instead of orbiting outside of it.




Tears for Fears were in a bit of an odd place in 1984. Having come out of the gate strong with the 1983 release of their debut LP The Hurting, it certainly would have been easy enough to duplicate that album’s icy landscapes and introspective, anguished soul searching. With the Cold War throwing coal on the fires of our fears and Kevin Bacon becoming the savior to a small town that banned dancing (I know, it was “just a movie”), they were going to have to reinvent itself if they hoped to have any longevity or relevance outside of the plastic decade.

The album they eventually came up with after a couple of false starts was Songs from the Big Chair, and to this day, besides being included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear before You Die, it remains the album to beat in their decades-deep catalogue. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of its release, Island Records has pulled out all the stops and issued a six-disc (four CDs, two DVDs) boxed set of the album, chock full of remixes, B-sides, and nine previously unreleased tracks.

If their debut was all about feeling out of place in an increasingly frenetic world, Songs from the Big Chair succeeded in replacing “me” with “us,” putting the listener into the world instead of orbiting outside of it. Their introverted perspective was artfully replaced with an expressively extroverted one, and led to an impressive residency on the Billboard charts in a time that will forever be known as “The Era of People Buying Records.” Sales numbers weren’t the only impressive thing about the album, which successfully captured the cultural zeitgeist with the loping, seductive “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” the dreamy heartache of “Head Over Heels,” or the political protest encouragement of “Shout.” The songs came with slick MTV videos, all melodic enough to dominate radio for a very long time, and all ultimately securing the band’s place in pop music history.

So should you snatch this up if you already own the original album? This set is obviously aimed at those of us who are fanatical about this record, so to those of you who fall into that category and want to dig a little deeper into this world, I’d say “Yes.” The bonus tracks here include sonic experiments such as “The Big Chair” and “Empire Building,” and instrumental cuts that wouldn’t be out of place on a David Lynch soundtrack, like “The Marauders” and “Broken Revisited.” It’s kind of a blast digging through these rarities, and songs like the tub-thumping “Pharaohs” and the ebullient “The Way You Are” are absolute gems.

Like any boxed set worth its weight, this package allows us to peek inside the artists’ minds and see how their creative process and decision making conspired to create an all-time classic. Though this wouldn’t be the last time Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith composed some great music, this set will make you look at Songs from the Big Chair with an enhanced appreciation for the context in which they created it. | Jim Ousley

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