Time to eat all your words: the best of Tears for Fears

From a distance of more than thirty years it’s hard to reconcile this duo’s sadpants mien  with the megapop goliath they became. Unlike even Peter Gabriel, whose affection for fox costumes adduced his penchant for the big gesture and who was as home in arenas as Donald Trump is with a bucket of KFC, Tears for Fears made the transformation without much fuss. For a while, consensus didn’t know what to do with Songs from the Big Chair besides holding its singles close; I have no problem calling it their most realized album, and thanks to a decade-old reissue it blasts out of the speakers. The industry greeted 1989’s oft-delayed The Seeds of Love with relief, as did the fans who bought it the first week and sent the title track into the top two — and no one else. Better than World Party, Jellyfish, XTC, and the other Beatles mimickers with which college radio was besotted, Tears for Fears realized a hybrid, an uneasy one, of “I Am the Walrus” pastiche and sophisti-pop. My dad’s beloved smooth jazz station Luv 94 played “Advice for the Young at Heart” in spring ’80. Their pop moment gone, TFF returned, again like Gabriel, to an odd semi-cult status: too big to shrink to New Pop size, too small for commercial radio (literally — Roland Orzabal was the only one left in 1993). Still, “Break It Down Again” actually got airplay. Meanwhile I envy their royalty statements: as I type “Shout and the immortal “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” play somewhere near you.

1. Head Over Heels/Broken
2. Sowing the Seeds of Love
3. Mad World
4. Everybody Wants to Rule the World
5. Watch Me Bleed
6. Shout
7. Pale Shelter
8. The Working Hour
9. Woman in Chains
10. The Hurting
11. Mother’s Talk (Remix)
12. Advice for the Young at Heart
13. The Way You Are
14. Break It Down Again
15. Standing on the Corner of the Third World

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