After 18 years, British-pop veterans Tears for Fears have returned with a new album, and it was worth the wait.
“The Tipping Point,” released on Feb. 25, is an excellent demonstration of music’s healing quality. Band members Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith reunited to create this album in the midst of personal tragedy and worldly turmoil.
The history of Tears for Fears is a fascinating story of childhood friends who forged a connection through shared traumas and a passion for music. But the conflicts between them were, at times, just as strong. Nevertheless, the band has persisted through breakups and hiatuses to emerge with an exquisite comeback 41 years after their formation.
Three singles were released prior to the album: “The Tipping Point,” “Break the Man,” and “No Small Thing.” The latter leads off the album, and I was surprised to see it listed first. However, it ended up working well because “No Small Thing” acts as a sampler for the musical flavors to come. It starts as an acoustic number but ramps up the intensity into a dizzying barrage. The song is expertly and gracefully crafted.
“Break the Man” is a delightful pop song with an infectious chorus that sings the praises of a complex feminine figure. The title track, “The Tipping Point,” is hauntingly gorgeous and features a mournful synth which instantly reminded me of something you’d hear in one of the “Songs from the Big Chair” b-sides. The drumbeat may also be familiar to listeners, as it’s similar to Tears for Fears’ biggest hit, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”
Side A also features “Long, Long, Long, Time” which includes soaring vocals from Curt Smith and modern pop instrumentals. The standout, “My Demons,” I absolutely love. It is an energetic and electronic tune that possesses a lot of attitude, especially in the opening verse which begins with the lyrics “I am the demolition man / I am the smoking gun / Why is my name up in lights when my name is spelled wrong?” I found these lines to be not only cool but quite amusing since singer Roland Orzabal’s name has been frequently misspelled by music journalists. Orzabal is no stranger to songs that contemplate the disconnect between himself and mainstream society, so this track is a perfect fit for him and a great moment in the album.
Side B is enjoyable but it did not affect me as much as the previous songs did. “Rivers of Mercy” and “Stay” are beautiful and touching songs, although they did not stand out significantly to me. The dig at the music industry in “Master Plan” I have enjoyed more with each listen. The lyrics “You need a lot of rage, / to get by these days / You need a lot of faith, / to reach the sun” followed by “I feel rage, I need faith / It’s not who I am” is particularly intriguing.
My takeaway from “The Tipping Point” is twofold: a sense of gratitude for this album as well as a pleasant surprise at how much I enjoy it. Honestly, I had my doubts that Tears for Fears could create a strong collection of songs after all this time, even though I was thoroughly impressed by the singles. However, the full release did not disappoint for the most part.
It isn’t just me who’s taken notice of this album. It debuted at number one on Billboard’s Top Alternative Albums and Top Rocks Albums lists, as well as peaking at number eight on the Top 200. The themes of grief, companionship, perseverance and the mystery of the human psyche are relevant to the times and fit perfectly into the Tears for Fears canon. At the end of the day, this band continues to be solid songwriters and as talented as ever.
“The Tipping Point” has a fresh feel but contains just enough sonic callbacks to make it recognizably Tears for Fears. This highlights what I believe is the ultimate feat of this album- the band is still reinventing themselves while maintaining a strong identity.
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