Tuesday, July 29, 2008

TVD's Daily Wax | Tears For Fears "Songs From The Big Chair"

...bear with me...I'm conducting an experiment.

After last week's goings on, I've been thinking about '80's Music' in some more general terms and when thinking it through, I'm of the mind that when "80's Music" is referred to (note the quotes) one is normally referencing anything that came during or prior to 1984 and that from 1985 onward...much was well, sort of ...waning and not "80's music" any longer as typically mentioned.

Think about it, all of the seminal and archetypical acts of the 1980's had already reached their highs (or glorious lows) and by '85, the rest was all downhill, a tepid rehash of what came prior, uninspired, or worse...bad MTV metal.

But to challenge my own assertion, I'm going to pull a few titles out of the stacks over the next few days that may or may not back up the above caffeinated rant. And while I thank Noah for yesterday's post, and despite reacquainting myself with and humming along to "E=MC2", the 1985 and 1986 LP's by Big Audio Dynamite...just never did it for me. Not even close. And worse--may have spurred this whole topic.

Which brings us to Tears For Fears' 1985 follow-up to 1983's "The Hurting". I'm actually on the fence about this one. "Mother's Talk" and "Shout" were both released as singles in the UK in '84, but the LP's proper release came in '85. Yet as a follow-up to "The Hurting", "Songs..." lacks the inspiration and pure self-awareness that made its predecessor such a gem. And despite the commercial success of this LP, this release could literally be the 'jump the shark' moment for '80's music as a whole. What was once a bit self-absorbed and off-kilter and marginally underground was now being introduced by Casey Kasem on America's Top 40. Egad.

Did I mention I'm on the fence about this one though? Reluctantly, I think a few of these tunes hold up...

Tears For Fears - The Working Hour (Mp3)
Tears For Fears - Everybody Wants To Rule The World (Mp3)
Tears For Fears - I Believe (Mp3)
Tears For Fears - Broken (Mp3)
Tears For Fears - Head Over Heels, Broken (Live) (Mp3)


Anonymous said...

While I certainly respect that Big Audio Dynamite never did it for you, I have to take issue with linking them to an 80s jump the shark moment or worse, associating them in any way with "Songs From the Big Chair." Whether you like their songs or not, you have to acknowledge that B.A.D. was far ahead of their contemporaries with their use of samples and their mixture of British, Jamaican, and New York influences and sounds has yet to be replicated by such a popular band (though of course the Clash had already gone down that path to a certain extent). I think Jones and company were trying to do something innovative and different, whereas the second Tears For Fears lp was pretty much of its time. Nowadays you hear Tears For Fears on classic light radio, but you don't hear the first two Big Audio Dynamite records anywhere. As perverted as it might sound, I take this to be an indication that B.A.D. got it right.

JON said...

Well, my point was that B.A.D. got me thinking and that the TFF LP was the shark jumper for me.

But, I'll underscore that I'm testing a theory out. Who knows where that might lead?

Anonymous said...

I worked in a record shop as well. I never could understand the fuss about this album. My brother is a few years younger and he thought it was great. Maybe just an age thing.

Speaking of age. One of my favorite 'lost' albums that I haven't seen represented here is Ian Hunter's "Welcome to the Club". I'm pretty sure it was recorded live at the Roxy here in greater ( or lesser) Los Angeles. One of the best live albums ever. Do you think you could scrape up a couple of tracks from it? I think I still have the Vinyl somewhere. Just wish I had a player!

JON said...

Y'know - I DO have that here on vinyl...hmmm...verrry good call...

Uncle E said...

I think 2004 was the last year for the "good 80's", but I also totally agree with Noah that BAD was a seminal band, far ahead of their time. In fact, I'd go so far as to cite BAD's debut as a key marker for the beginning of the "next wave" of british music.
As far as what happened to all those once great bands-Psychedelic Furs, Simple Minds, etc etc etc-I will, and will always, blame John HUghes and his teen angst movies of the era. Check it out and you'll see that I'm right! He singlehandedly destroyed many a great bands careers. Oh, I know some would say that they reached their commercial peak because of their inclusion in his films, but what it really did was alienate them from their hardcore fan base leaving them with the here-today-gone-tomorrow teeny bopper set.

Urban Gypsy said...

for the most part, i agree with your assertion about post-1985 downslide, in terms of a general trend, though there are many exceptions. but just look at depeche mode, for example... they moved away from the synthpop to do something different...anyway i'm on the fence about this album too... i like maybe two tracks from it :) anyway keep up the 80s experiment! i'm looking forward to seeing what directions it will take! :D

Chris said...

Aha! My favorite thing...bash the 80s bands. Haha I totally agree about B.A.D.. They were and in many cases still are ahead of the curve.

However, it is easy to overlook the power of Songs... from TFF when you think about Everybody Wants... and Shout... Those two songs may have wrecked the album for "serious" music lovers. Why? Overplayed. But that was when radio actually played music that was relatively significant. Not so much any more (with few exceptions, of course).

I think one has to put TFF in the "good 80s" pile. This album was just as strong as 1982's The Hurting, but it was far more over produced. It was bound to happen. Still the songs are strong. What makes a great song doesn't go away because it gets heard 1,000,000,000,000+ times. It's still a great song. Think about any song you LOVE. Then think about it from the standpoint of Shout, or Everybody Wants to Rule the World.

Witness Iggy Pop's Lust for Life. Great. Great. Great. Great! Great song! However, now that I've heard the same snippet over and over in that financial planning commercial, I'm done with it. Still a great song. I just don't need to hear it as much.

Try it with any song you love. You'll see the most significant song in your catalog deteriorate into insignificance.

Oh, and you cannot say "I've listened to it a million, thousand, million times myself, and I still love it." There is something about letting millions of others in on your secret that shreds it to pieces.

The power of the song did that. Not even John Hughes can tear it apart. He just created the landscape that now allows incredible musicians and artists who would otherwise never be heard to be a part of the American culture through movies, tv shows and commercials. Zach Braff didn't get his idea on his own.

John Hughes and before him Ennio Morricone helped make music important to the visual arts.

Alas, poor Roland Orzabal, I knew ye well.

Thanks for the most interesting music blog out there TVD. You rock!

sweetestbaboon@yahoo.com said...

I've enjoyed your column (is that word archaic?) very much for a while now & I wanted to thank you for the provoking-of-thought &/or recommendation of a good piece of music.

I thought you might enjoy this bit of nascent anarchy in the form of my 8 year old son rockin' The Clash's "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" at his recent birthday party/garage band gig.

Here's the link to the YouTube goodness:


If you do enjoy it, & deem it worthy, please feel more than free to embed (now there's a more current term) @ your blog.
I know Jack would be thrilled beyond belief!

By the way, he's also hosting his own benefit concert for Obama in August...

Thanks for all you do!

Enjoy the day-



adam said...

I always had a straightforward 'no' to Tears For Fears (those haircuts! that pretention at seriousness when you're just fluff!) I think if I thought of them at all it was as just another smash hits nothing band who filled up bits of the mainstream soundtrack.

But, running with the 'soundtrack' comment above, Head Over Heels is so perfect in that perfect Sequence in Donnie Darko that I think I have to rethink what I think about them more generally.

Although nothing is going to get me to be nice about Shout and 'Rule The World'. Didn't they shake their clenched fists whilst singing to show us how much they meant it? I think they probably did. It didn't help.

Urban Gypsy said...

Chris I agree with your astute comments about the evils of overplaying. "There is something about letting millions of others in on your secret that shreds it to pieces." Truer words have never been spoken :D

Adam Head over Heels is my favorite track too :)

Dumbek said...

It's nowhere close to "The Hurting", but this isn't a bad record at all "...Rule the World" is simply a good pop song. "Shout" was actually a pretty odd choice for a single at the time. I never would have expected it to be a big hit. The 7" version of "Mother's Talk" rocks pretty hard.

I agree with the overplayed/over-produced comments above. It's a good pop record. Nothing more. Nothing less.

But what do I know. I hate B.A.D.

Simon said...

I love the first two TFF albums; and the 2nd BAD album is one of my all time favourites. I'm hating you just a little bit though, cos I was about to post some of those tunes myself!

I like the moodier side of Songs From The Big Chair, there's some good daydreaming music there. Reminds me of the summer after I left school, along with The Bangles All Over The Place, Prince's Around The World In A Day and some random mod tunes.

Random fact about this album: the saxaphone is played by one Will Gregory, later of Goldfrapp.