The Tipping Point

Tears For Fears

TFF UK/Concord, 2022

http://tearsforfears.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/28/2022

The best Tears for Fears songs have a dramatic flair and a way of getting under your skin, and even though it’s been 17 years since their last “reunion” project, the band’s newest album shows they can still write solid, thoughtful, dark, dramatic synth-pop with a modern flair.

A quick recap of the story: The core duo of TFF—Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith—split unhappily in 1991 after Sowing the Seeds of Love and the attendant hit single title track, with Orzabal making two more albums under the TFF name, one good and one lacking. A “reunion” disc happened in 2004 to little fanfare, but nothing much came after that for more than a decade. Then in 2017 Orzabal’s wife Caroline passed away, and the Smith/Orzabal duo was reborn out of a shared need to write together (and, apparently, some post-rehab revelations by Orzabal). The pandemic gave them a great reason to hunker down together and complete a new album.

The angsty, emotional spirit that fueled the band’s songwriting is still here, but now comes with the weight of a life lived, of a loved one lost, of being able to see the world for what it is instead of what it could be. As with many albums by middle-aged artists, there’s an air of contentment that wasn’t around in 1983, but there’s also an import of knowledge; songs like “Please Be Happy” and “The Tipping Point” are reflections of the experience of watching your wife of 35 years succumb to depression and dementia.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That’s not to say this is a depressing album—far from it. Sadness is certainly woven through the songs, as is hope (the topical “Rivers Of Mercy” and the smash-the-patriarchy anthem “Break The Man”), righteous anger (“Master Plan,” a swipe at their old management) and loyalty to something that’s difficult to give up (“Stay,” the only song here to appear somewhere else prior). As with any Tears for Fears album, the songs and production are elegant and reward repeated listens.

While the band’s dark synth-pop and multi-tracked vocal sound is the spine of the music, there are modern indie-rock flourishes to “Long, Long, Long Time” that try to bring the sound current. “No Small Thing,” a celebration of freedom, unusually starts with an acoustic guitar and slowly builds to an anthemic chorus and climax. “The Tipping Point,” “Break The Man” and “End Of Night” probably sound the most like classic TFF, when Smith was more involved in the singing and songwriting, and if anything on here was going to be a hit single it would be the title track.

“My Demons” is something of an oddity, clearly an Orzabal-written track with a robotic staccato verse spitting out vivid imagery and a catchy chorus; though I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be about, it sounds cool. It’s the flip side of the brooding but uplifting “Rivers Of Mercy,” which touches on political and social strife with some lovely singing; it’s not far removed from Seeds Of Love. “Please Be Happy” is a tough listen, a lovely and soaring three-minute song with real-world pain behind it. It’s almost heartbreaking, but it needed to be said.

That’s the biggest thing about The Tipping Point, that feeling that these lyrics and this music something its creators needed to make. They could have kept touring and playing the same old ’80s hits, or they could have moved on to something else, or they could have teamed with modern hitmakers (which didn’t go well the first time they tried) to score a hit single. But none of that is at play here, and that makes this a refreshing, involving 42 minutes of music. No, it’s not as catchy as the best of Songs From The Big Chair or as self-involvingly dramatic as the best of The Hurting, but it’s of a piece with both of those albums, and fans will welcome this with open arms.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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