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Tears For Fears - The Tipping Point (Album Review)

Friday, 11 March 2022 Written by Simon Ramsay

Photo: Frank Ockenfels

Almost 18 years after the release of the erroneously titled ‘Everybody Loves A Happy Ending’, Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal have returned with a mightily impressive album that, by sounding like classic Tears For Fears without a hint of anachronism, has swerved the potential pitfalls that can befall artists who don’t stay true to themselves.

When they began sowing the seeds for this record nearly a decade ago, both the band’s management and record company wanted them to collaborate with hip young songwriters to produce a loosely-assembled collection of modern, box ticking hits.

An unsatisfying and dispiriting process Smith has likened to ‘speed dating’, he and Orzabal bailed on those sessions to make a properly sculpted album that’s more representative of who they are.  

Having realised the undiluted combination of their expressive storytelling voices, not to mention distinctive vocal interplay, is crucial to Tears For Fears’ identity, the pair were intent on producing a song cycle that, as is their way, would take listeners on a journey into the deepest recesses of their hearts.

Provoking the feeling of moving from safe, intimate comfort zones into a ruthless and demanding world, No Small Thing sets the scene perfectly as it skilfully swells from low key acoustic country into a stormy and foreboding Roger Waters-style psychodrama. 

Although predominantly focused on reconciling and purging grief, anger, despair and struggle, each song ends on a cathartic note that gives the listening experience a panacea effect. Written about the tragic death of Orzabal’s wife, the soaring title track makes peace with unbearable loss as it chimes, gallops and thunders in vintage Tears For Fears fashion towards a dynamic, melodious and melancholy hook.

It’s perhaps ironic that, mostly left to their own devices, Smith and Orzabal have still crafted a record full of potential hits. But even though contemporary pop-slanted cuts like Break The Man, and the slightly garish electronica of End Of Night, deliver uptempo, radio-friendly fare, ‘The Tipping Point’ is neither formulaic nor calculated.  

There might not be any of the band’s somewhat arty and self-indulgent diversions, but within each composition they’ve employed a vault’s worth of era and genre-spanning textures to amplify the songs widescreen emotional scope.  

Long, Long, Long Time’s silken chorus features Carina Round’s angelic voice rejuvenating Smith’s world-weary soul, Please Be Happy’s heartfelt plea to a troubled loved one blends galvanising orchestration and sorrowful jazz and Rivers Of Mercy, a serene gospel-flavoured jewel, marries Enya tranquillity with an understated latter-day Toto soundscape. And then there’s Demons, a retro-modernistic electro banger that stamps and snarls like Goldfrapp gone full-blooded Krautrock. 

When visionary artists are allowed to follow their unique creative arrows, instead of being ‘encouraged’ to chase commercial trends, they’ll usually hit the target with resounding effect. That said, they might have missed the mark when titling this release.  

While their debut was called ‘The Hurting’, thanks to its resonant depiction of two mentally fragile adolescents plagued by childhood trauma, this is a sage album by a pair of artists who’ve learnt, and subsequently imparted, valuable lessons about how to navigate this mad world. As such, what feels like a cleansing bookend to a career that began in turmoil over 40 years ago should probably have been christened ‘The Healing.’

Tears For Fears Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri July 01 2022 - TELFORD QEII Arena
Sat July 02 2022 - WILTSHIRE Longleat
Mon July 04 2022 - LONDON O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Tue July 05 2022 - AYLESBURY Waddesdon Manor
Thu July 07 2022 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Utilita Arena
Fri July 08 2022 - KELSO Floors Castle
Sat July 09 2022 - LANCASHIRE Lytham Green
Tue July 12 2022 - DERBY Incora County Ground
Thu July 14 2022 - LEEDS Millenium Square
Fri July 15 2022 - WARWICK Castle
Sat July 16 2022 - SCARBOROUGH Open Air Theatre
Tue July 19 2022 - BOURNEMOUTH Chewton Glen
Wed July 20 2022 - CANTERBURY Spitfire Ground
Fri July 22 2022 - HOVE First Central County Ground
Sat July 23 2022 - CARDIFF Castle
Tue July 26 2022 - EXETER Powderham Castle
Sun September 18 2022 - KINGSTON UPON THAMES PRYZM Kingston

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