Tears for Fears’ 2004 reunion record, “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending,” celebrated Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith working together after a nasty decade-long split.
“We weren’t going through any turmoil at the time,” Smith told the Herald. “We liked working together. Roland had just moved to Los Angeles (where Smith lives) with his family and the record had a relaxed feel and was a joy to make. This one involved a lot more pain.
Coming 18 years after the duo’s last record, “The Tipping Point” is dripping with pain – and a bit of anger, triumph and middle-aged perspective.
Orzabal and Smith had often worked with key collaborators. But together they defined the sound of their massive 80s hits: “Shout”, “Sowing the Seeds of Love”, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. For the sequel to “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending,” management and record company executives wanted the duo to pursue modern sounds by working with hot young artists.
“It felt like we were trying to write modern hit songs with modern hit producers, and to me that was completely dishonest,” Smith said ahead of the band’s performance at Leader Bank Pavilion on June 22. “He didn’t have the depth that I like in Tears for Fears records.”
The duo parted ways with everyone committed to making them hip again — management, executives, modern producers. They liked a few of the tracks from the sessions and kept the bones of it. But two years ago the duo regrouped at Smith’s with acoustic guitars and wrote the lead track together, “No Small Thing” – something between an English folk song and the Beatles experience, the lyrics proclaim. “‘Cause Freedom/Is no small thing. ”
“This song starts with acoustic guitars and at the end it’s all about it,” Smith said. “It’s a trip. … And that’s what we were missing. The previous record was 12 attempts at writing 12 modern and upbeat songs. There was no trip. It had no depth. We had to find the journey and the depth and this song sums up the whole album.
After the pair abandoned the first record attempt and completed what became “The Tipping Point”, Orzabal lost his wife of 35 years after his long battle with alcoholism. Meanwhile, around the group, the world was falling apart again and again.
“There was so much going on at the start of the pandemic,” Smith said. “We had been through four years of Donald Trump and the rise of the right around the world, we had been through the MeToo movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, the climate crisis that is still going on. There was a ton for us to write and I think this album touches on all of those things.
There’s nothing dishonest about “The Tipping Point.” They pack the LP with new twists on what made Tears for Fears special – finely crafted new wave pop clashed with odd bits of British Invasion psychedelia or 80s soul or prog. Over aggressive drum beats or tender piano melodies, the duo digs into personal and global wounds.
For Orzabal and Smith, who went nine years without speaking to each other, the pain brought them closer.
“Through that, we became closer,” Smith said. “It was hard. For some reason the only way to end this record was for us both to sit down, alone, and agree on the things we wanted to do and talk through those things. It brought us a lot closer personally and music-wise.
Just as the two let pain pull them through, let that pain (and joy and introspection) drag you into the record.
For tickets and details, go to tearsforfears.com.