Tears For Fears / The Tipping Point is a wonderful slice of melancholic prog/pop

Tears For Fears, the Bath duo whose third album, The Seeds Of Love, was called a pop/prog masterpiece by Steven Wilson, release their long-awaited new album The Tipping Point this Friday. Put simply, it is a wonderful album.

Tears For Fears – The Tipping Point (Concord Records)

Release Date: 25 February 2022

Words: Robert Adams

Personally, I have always had a soft spot for Tears For Fears since they released The Hurting album back in 1983. Back then, I was a rabid fan of Iron Maiden, Rush, Magnum, Marillion and Queen, but there was just something special to my ears about Tears For Fears music. They weren’t your usual Top 40 pop band, and I have stayed the course with them throughout the years, as I have with Maiden, Rush, Magnum, Marillion and Queen.

They were never afraid to change musically. ’85s Songs From The Big Chair saw them use a more guitar-driven sound than The Hurting’s synth-heavy sound. ’89s The Seeds Of Love harks back to the classic sound of the ’70s. All of this was achieved in their own inimitable style. Even though their musicality went through changes, everything they did sounded like Tears For Fears, and it sounded great to me.

Tears For Fears - album cover for The Tipping Point
Tears For Fears. The Tipping Point out 25 February.

Fast forward to 2022, and we have The Tipping Point, the long-awaited follow up to the 2004 Everybody Loves A Happy Ending album. Given the almost 17 year gap between these albums, it’s safe to say that it’s not been an easy ride for Tears For Fears in getting The Tipping Point released.

Management issues saw the band seeking new representation, which they achieved. The tragic death of Roland Orzabal’s wife in 2017 unsurprisingly hit him hard, followed by his own health scare in 2018. Then we had the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and it’s easy to see why this album took so long to finally see the light of day.

The biggest question is – was it worth the wait? You bet it was!!

The Roland Orzabal/Curt Smith composed No Small Thing kicks off proceedings with an almost folk style acoustic guitar strumming pattern. The lyric deals with freedom of expression, which is quite a loaded subject under this ongoing global pandemic. Just how much freedom do we actually have? The music layers itself up as the song progresses and sounds full and lush by the end.

The pair have spoken about writers and producers wanting to evoke the Tears For Fears heyday and trying to write for them along the lines of ‘you’ve had a hit before, and it sounded like this, so let’s try another one of those.’

“I was sitting around with Curt strumming on acoustic guitars,” Roland Orzabal says, “and I stumbled on something which sounded completely the reverse, the opposite. It sounded organic. It evoked, I think, a little bit of Bob Dylan, but toward the end, you are hearing Led Zepplin-ish drums and then total chaos. And it was like, this is us. This is who we are. And it was so refreshing and liberating, literally. Like the song says, ‘Freedom is no small thing.’ And finally, we can say what we want to say.”

Title track The Tipping Point sees us back in a more recognisable Tears For Fears sound with a truly wonderful beat. Orzabal confronts his grief over his wife’s passing with a deeply personal lyric. “This coincided with a specific time in my life,” Orzabal says, “when my first wife wasn’t very well. I was essentially watching her die. That’s where the lyrics come from. It’s an image of a hospital room where you are just looking at someone and waiting for the point when they are more dead than alive. That’s the tipping point, and it’s almost like part of you is willing to cross that threshold because you are in that purgatory while they’re in purgatory.”

When do we actually start mourning the death of a loved one? It’s such a powerful song and one that the band can be justifiably proud of.

Long, Long, Long Time starts with a solo keyboard and beautiful vocal before almost exploding into a full cinematic sound as the whole band kicks in. “It’s a song that was searching for direction,” Curt Smith says, “and sort of found its own, especially once Carina Round, who sings with us on tour, came in and joined on the chorus.”

Break The Man is another instantly recognisable Tears For Fears song. A chorus that is as catchy as hell over yet another cinematic musical background. The song, about a strong female and breaking the patriarchy, has a wonderful animated video to accompany it.

My Demons is a proper headbanging slice of heavy electronica. This track conjures images of Nine Inch Nails at the fiercest electronic best, as it “rocks in its own way.”

Rivers Of Mercy opens with wailing sirens before a beautiful piano and vocal start us off properly. Doug Petty, the Tears For Fears keyboard player, wrote the original backing track after Roland’s wife had asked him why he did not write with his band, who were amazing.

The whole feel of the song is redemption or baptism and the start of a more cathartic release from the bleak lyrical first half of the album. Tears For Fears are tackling very real issues with all of these songs, which is something they have always done.

Please Be Happy is a counterpoint to the title track, The Tipping Point. Where the title track’s protagonist wrestles with the dilemma of when to begin mourning a loss, Please Be Happy is a song of hope to those that have lost loved ones. There is an understanding of the debilitating pain that grief causes, yet it’s also a song of truth where you learn to cope with the loss through time. Grief never goes away. We all just learn to deal with it in our own way. Personally, I would say that Please Be Happy is the most powerful song that Tears For Fears have ever written.

Master Plan sounds like a classic E.L.O ballad, and I mean that with the utmost respect, while End Of Night is a return to Tears For Fears melodic pop best. “End Of The Night is not trying to be anything but a pretty simple pop song,” Smith says, “and at this point in the record, that doesn’t bother me at all.”

The album closes with Stay, a haunting yet uplifting sparse ballad that was written when Smith was considering leaving the band. “It’s a hard thing to walk away from something you’ve spent so many years doing, nurturing and building,” Smith says. “It’s really a song about questioning yourself.”

“It’s expressing the conflict,” Orzabal says, “and admitting there is one. Which is always a start.”

So there we have it. Tears For Fears The Tipping Point is an album that was over 17 years in the making and is just a glorious slice of musicality. Tears For Fears most certainly are not a Metal band, but The Tipping Point is a wonderful slice of melancholic prog/pop.

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