The Hurting (30th Anniversary Edition)

Tears For Fears

Universal, 2013

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


One of the darkest and most difficult albums in pop history, The Hurting is less accessible but more emotionally raw than its successor, the much more commercial Songs From The Big Chair.

Those familiar with this British duo from that album and its hits "Shout," "Head Over Heels," and especially "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" are in for a surprise; the sound is similar but the feel is far different. Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith mined their difficult childhoods for songwriting material and turned in an album that is honest, sometimes catchy, a bit cold and clinical in the sound, and with a dark cloud hanging over it at all times.

Yet the album's saving grace is how it refuses to remain maudlin or self-pitying, using songs like "Memories Fade," "Suffer The Children," and "Watch Me Bleed" as catharsis instead of an excuse to wallow, which nobody wants to listen to for 40 minutes. The music surges and falls according to plan, heavy on the synthesizers and rhythms with some background guitar added for texture, but it's better executed and much less annoying (although just as detached and businesslike) than most ‘80s New Wave/pop.

The best-known song is probably "Mad World," a mildly spooky, churning pop piece recalling those adolescent school days where nobody knows you or cares to. It's a song that could easily be self-pitying (as in Adam Lambert's cover on American Idol a few years back), but the performance is more like a conversation or a journal entry, something not meant for the world to know, and that personal approach is more appealing.

"Watch Me Bleed" is a musical highlight with some very unsettling lyrics (“I’ll make no noise / I’ll hide my pain / I’ll close my eyes / I won’t complain / I’ll lie right back and take the blame / And try to tell myself I’m living”). "Change" uses kaleidoscopic keyboards and xylophone against a static rhythm section to tell its story of regret, and "Pale Shelter" is another somewhat energetic piece (compared to the rest of this) that is well written.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The aforementioned dark cloud over the album doesn't always manifest itself in great songs; again, pieces like "The Hurting" and the bizarre "The Prisoner" work as catharsis for the songwriters but aren’t necessarily musical rewards for the listener. "Ideas As Opiates" (a great song title) and "Memories Fade" plod along without much resolution (though the latter features a tricky, heartbreaking vocal performance), while "Start Of The Breakdown" ends the album with a sigh instead of a bang.

The 2013 reissue of the album attempts to be lavish but is instead repetitive, recommended pretty much only to completists and big fans. The set includes a CD of B-sides and remixes, a disc of live sessions and a 13-song DVD from the 1984 Hammersmith Odeon show. The live disc only has 10 songs with several repeats, and most of them are among the lowlights of The Hurting; worse, there's no way to know these tracks are live, as there is a) fading out, b) no background noise of any sort, and c) virtually no difference between these and the originals. Only "Change" really stands out, though it's hardly worth sitting through the disc for.

The B-side disc is somewhat interesting, including three takes on "Pale Shelter" (the original four minute version, the longer seven minute version which was cut down for The Hurting, and a new extended seven minute version that's not much different). Other tracks are present in remix versions that add little to the originals, such as the three versions of "Change" and four versions of "Suffer The Children," including an instrumental one. Pretty much the only true revelations are an early, much longer take on "Broken" (which would later surface on Big Chair), the acoustic "Wino" (showcasing another side to the songwriting) and the over-slow "The Conflict," which is probably necessary for completists.

The DVD is a bit of a letdown as well, since this is not music that requires a visual element to succeed. The cold, detached, intricate sound doesn't exactly translate to an exciting live show, so there is a lot of standing around or close-ups of the duo's faces as they sing. To compensate, the filmmakers add a bunch of state-of-the-art in 1984 computer overlays and tricks, which come off as outtakes from the original Tron movie and are, frankly, cheesy as hell in 2013. The song selection includes everything from The Hurting except "Watch Me Bleed" as well as "Mothers Talk," “The Working Hour,” and the "Broken"/"Head Over Heels" suite, all of which would later appear on Big Chair.

It would have made more sense to include the best of the B-sides, live tracks, and remixes on one bonus disc and then include the DVD, because this is simply too much repetition from an album that, while good, doesn't deserve such a lavish treatment. There aren't many records like The Hurting (which would earn a B rating from this reviewer), and it is recommended in its original form, but unless you're a big Tears For Fears fan, you can probably skip this set and stick with the original disc.

Rating: C-

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