Guess who turned forty-nine today? That's right - it's Roland Orzabal from the legendary Bath, UK electronic duo Tears For Fears. So today I'd like to take a look at his (and his partner-in-crime Curt Smith's) certifiable masterpiece The Hurting. I don't know about you, but thinking about it (and then listening to it) make me quite excited!
Sure, Tears For Fears are probably best known for their later work, such as Songs From The Big Chair with its rapid-fire pow-pow-pow of hits "Shout," "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," and "Mothers Talk." These are great songs in their own right, and I have to admit that they're really quite catchy. Please though, don't get me started on the dreck that followed after - namely "Sowing The Seeds of Love" and "Woman In Chains." Let's just say - uh, not so good, guys. But that's just me.
Anyway! Back to The Hurting. Released in 1983, this delightfully morose and inquisitively sensitive record was based in part on the writings of a psychotherapist by the name of Arthur Janov, who had written a book entitled "The Primal Scream." Orzabal and Smith, who had both grown up in troubled homes without their fathers, found in Janov's writings a way to work out their unresolved unhappinesses. Even their name comes from the good doctor's oeuvre: he had written that a good way to get crap out of your system was tears as a replacement for fears. So right there is a reason this record is so damn special - it's a concept album based on the works of a psychotherapist designed to chase out the demons of a spectacularly unhappy childhood.
Surprisingly, though, The Hurting is not necessarily a depressing listen. Sure, the lyrics themselves revolve around such dispiriting themes such as abandonment, loss, sorrow, madness, tension, and nervous breakdowns (Orzabal's father fell victim to one such breakdown after suffering most of his life with arterial sclerosis). But the music - the music! Utilizing a decent mixture of synths, sequencers, live and programmed drums, and guitar, there's a distinct ebullience present in these recordings. "Mad World," for instance, while it features a lyric stating that "the dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had," still soars with its tantalizing mixture of tribal drums, brooding synths, and driving beat. "Pale Shelter" grooves along with a lovely acoustic guitar and bass backup, whilst synths noodle in the background. Curt does sing lines like, "And I can't operate on this failure when all I want to be is completely in command," but not in a mopey way at all. It's all an interesting juxtaposition, to be sure. Even arguably the saddest song of the bunch, the poppy "Suffer The Children," sung to the father who's abandoned his child, features in its coda a chorus of singing children, their voices (one of whom belongs to Orzabal's daughter) flitting about high in the cloudy sky like brightly colored birds. (Maybe I've seen The Shawshank Redemption a few times, ya reckon?)
So Happy Birthday, Mr Orzabal. By facing your fears (by exchanging them for tears) and exorcizing the demons of your unhappy upbringing with a band-mate who shared your passion, you've created a piece of art that will stand the test of time. I, for one, would like to thank you. We here at Second Drawer Up salute you!
And, in true Second Drawer Up fashion, I'd like to share with my delightful readers (you know who you are) a single from The Hurting. Ladies and gentlemen, here is Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith from Tears For Fears with their single "Suffer The Children." Enjoy!
Correction: I have been informed by an anonymous commentator that it is, indeed, Mr Orzabal's wife, not his daughter, who is providing background vocals on "Suffer The Children." My mistake! Cheers, Mr or Ms Anonymous!