Tears For Fears: The Tipping Point [Album Review]

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Tears For Fears
The Tipping Point
Concord Records [2022]

For all the bright, dance floor potency of Tears for Fears’ 1985 smash hits “Shout” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and the Beatlesque pop psychedelia of their 1989 follow-up, The Seeds of Love, the British duo do tend to come from a pretty dour place. It was no mistake that their debut album was titled The Hurting, and the thing that makes that meme that says “Every photo of Tears for Fears looks like a couple who just had a fight and aren’t talking to each other” so funny is that it’s true. Turns out the band’s two principals – Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith – broke up shortly after that glorious “The Seeds of Love” tour, and the TfF albums in the 90’s were strictly an Orzabal affair, with the duo reuniting for 2004’s Everybody Loves A Happy Ending.

While work on the band’s seventh album, The Tipping Point, started as far back as 2013 with their management pairing Orzabal and Smith up with some younger hitmaking songwriters, but the results never quite felt like a Tears for Fears album. In 2017, the band and Universal Records released a greatest hits album, Rule the World, with a couple new songs, one of which, “Stay,” has made the cut on the final 2022 release. There were other delays, most notably Orzabal’s illness that followed the death of his wife, which brings a grieving presence to numerous songs here, but the duo report it was sitting down with acoustic guitars together to write the opening track, “No Small Thing,” based on a simple folk song riff that Smith came up with. The track builds to a rousing anthemic conclusion around the chant that “Freedom/Is no small thing,” which makes it’s release just as Russia was invading Ukraine no small thing indeed.

Both the title track and “End of Night” deliver solid pop melodies that recall “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” but the lion’s share of The Tipping Point has more of an adult contemporary feel than a youthful banger that will require access to a dance floor. The title track finds Orzabal reflecting on the moment of his wife’s passing, acknowledging that “Life is cruel, life is tough/Life is crazy, then it all turns to dust,” as he’s haunted by the “ghost knocking at my door?/You know that I can’t love you more.”

Which suggests that his current comfort zone is the grieving piano ballad, “Rivers of Mercy,” as he works out what it looks like “Letting go” in “Long, Long, Long Time.” In “Master Plan,” where “things aren’t working out/If my soul be damned,” Orzabal name drops the Beatles and the Stones, but he’s thinking more “Yesterday,” the first lyric of the song,” more than “Brown Sugar” to be sure.

Orzabal manages to exorcize “My Demons,” with the songwriting aid of Florian Reutter and Sacha Skarbeck, who contributed to Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” Smith contributes a pop rock “bad girl” song with the help of Charlton Pettus, on “Break the Man,” a song aimed to bring down the wall of Patriarchy.” The songwriting duo return with the quiet, closing ballad, “Stay,” which can’t make up it’s mind if it should go. This is your grandparents’ Tears for Fears, which includes the makings of a mature, reflective record from the now, aging new wave ravers, which is enjoyable enough. But it’s nothing to shout about.

Key Tracks: “The Tipping Point” / “No Small Thing” / “Break The Man”

Artists With Similar Fire: Howard Jones / Coldplay / Prefab Sprout

Tears For Fears Review History: The Hurting (30th Anniversary Edition) (2013)

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Brian Q. Newcomb

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