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 were enjoying working together. Roland had just moved to Los Angeles (where Smith lives) with his family and the record had a relaxed feeling 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” drips with pain — and a little anger, triumph and middle-aged perspective.
Tears for Fears, ‘The Tipping Point’
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 follow up to “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending,” management and record company executives wanted the pair to chase modern sounds by working with hot, young artists.
“It felt like us trying to write modern hit songs with modern hit producers, and to me it felt completely dishonest,” Smith said ahead of the band’s June 22 Leader Bank Pavilion concert. “It didn’t have the depth that I love about 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 them. But two years ago, the pair regrouped at Smith’s house with acoustic guitars and together wrote the lead track, “No Small Thing” — something between an English folk song and Beatles experiment, the lyrics proclaim “’Cause freedom/Is no small thing.”
“That song starts with acoustic guitars and by the end everything is in there,” Smith said. “It’s a journey. … And that’s what we were missing. The record before had been 12 attempts at writing 12 modern, upbeat songs. It had no journey. It had no depth. We needed to find the journey and the depth and that song does encapsulate the whole album.”
After the pair scrapped the first attempt at a record and finished what became “The Tipping Point,” Orzabal lost his wife of 35 years after her long battle with alcoholism. Meanwhile, around the band, the world fell apart over and over again.
“There was so much going as the pandemic began,” Smith said. “We’d gone through four years of Donald Trump and the rise of the right wing worldwide, we’d been through the MeToo movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, the climate crisis that’s still ongoing. There was a ton for us to write about and I think this album touches on all 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 pushed up against strange bits of British Invasion psychedelia or ’80s soul or prog. Over aggressive drum pulses or tender piano melodies, the duo dig into wounds, personal and global.
For Orzabal and Smith, who spent nine years not speaking, the pain has pulled them together.
“Through it, we became closer,” Smith said. “It was difficult. For whatever reason, the only way that this record was going to get finished was for the two of us to sit down, on our own, and agree on the things we wanted to do and talk through those things. It brought us a lot closer personally and as far as the music was concerned.”
Just as the two let the pain pull them through, let that pain (and joy and introspection) pull you into the record.
For tickets and details, go to tearsforfears.com.