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Album Review - Tears for Fears "Songs From The Big Chair" Super Deluxe Edition

This week Tears For Fears “Songs From the Big Chair” is getting a Super Deluxe re-release to celebrate its upcoming 30th Anniversary. As a seminal album, “Songs from the Big Chair” was the record that brought Tears for Fears to superstar status with numerous hits that still get radio play and remains resolutely relevant. But for me it’s much more.

I  remember vividly when the record came out, as my girlfriend at the time was one of the first people to buy it. We were TFF fans from their prior release “The Hurting” which already established them as a decent synth-pop band with songs like “Pale Shelter” and “Mad World”. This was a lucky day for us as we had the house to ourselves. We put the album on and made our way to her room. We spent the next couple hours listening to the record repeatedly, with the only negative being one of us had to leave the room to flip the record over to play the other side. It remains one of my top teen memories and I am sure it elevates this record’s relevance to me.  But even close to 30 years later, “Songs from the Big Chair” sounds resoundingly fresh and my appreciation for it with this new release has actually deepened.
The Super Deluxe Edition that I was sent is for the completest. A full 6-disc box set, this release features the album, the b-sides, remixes, live versions and more. Also, included is a 32-page booklet with a track-by-track guide. There are a couple other versions available, if you don’t want all the extras. If you don’t already have this album in your collection or you have an older version,  this release is a must-buy. It’s a reflection of some of the finest music made in the 80’s and still has an impact on records being made today. For evidence just listen to any track by M83.

Here’s my rundown on the major tracks:
“Shout” opens the album and immediately shows the shift in Tears from Fears from a small synth-pop outfit to an explosive pop band. It’s an anthem song of the best sort. One that expresses anger and resentment of the current establishment. The full version here is a flourishing six and half minute track, featuring dynamic percussion that propels the song along with synth and guitar solos.
“The Working Hour” features a luxurious opening with saxophone and percussion that builds for a full 2 minutes before the vocals come in. It’s a track that I appreciate even more now than I did on its initial release. When the vocals finally come in they soar, having both a calming and alarmingly, chilling effect. It is a truly graceful song with the instrumentation being the standout and the lyrics kept to a minimum. The following track, “Everybody Wants to the Rule the World”  was the big single I’m was never a big fan of.  While a good enough pop song, it seems almost lazy in ambition compared to the epic lengths the other tracks strive for.
“Mothers Talk” is my jam of the record. An absolute stunner, “Mothers Talk” has a groove that pulsates with funk and innovation. The original US release for the album was a real let down as it featured the trimmed down 3:53 version. For me the song is so strong it could go on for another 5 minutes. As luck would have it, this deluxe version includes several extended and mixed versions of “Mothers Talk” to satisfy my obsession for this track.
“I Believe” opened side 2 of the album and is a slower and more meditative song. It’s the lyrics that grab me, “I believe that if you thought for a moment, took your time, you would not resign yourself to your fate.” It’s a mature song that I think I’m finally growing up to embracing.
“Broken/Head Over Heels” are the next 2 songs. I know “Head Over Heels” might have been released as a single, but in my mind this is just one long, grand song. Another dynamic opening that even has some progressive rock elements with sweeping guitar and piano leading into the majestic “Head Over Heels.” I’ll be honest and admit that the use of this song in Donnie Darko is what really won me over. It’s easily one of the best music montages in film I’ve seen. Along with “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” there is some schmaltz on the chorus, but there’s no denying the strength of the closing that reprises back into “Broken.”

Closing the original album is the most difficult track “Listen.” The applause at the beginning made me think this was a live track but I was never sure. It’s close to being ambient music with atmospheric synths and strange effects. At seven minutes, it’s the longest track and unlike the others, it feels long. Tedious and overbearing, yet still there is something stirring in the track that makes it endurable for me. The B-sides of the album I actually prefer to “Listen.” Excluding “The Big Chair” from the original release never made sense. Sure it is mostly an instrumental track but it’s a very good one! By the way the title “The Big Chair” was taken from the multiple personality  movie, Sybil, with the Big Chair referring to a safe place be your true self.

Overall, “Song from the Big Chair” is an important album that saw Tears for Fears reaching a peak in perfect songwriting and production they could never hope to recapture. This collection pulls together all the loose ends in a package that I can put on, escape to my room,  relive old memories and create new ones.

This review by Mikel OD of Most People Are DJs