Tears for Fears – Everybody Loves a Happy Ending

Tears for Fears
Everybody Loves a Happy Ending

Tears for Fears has sold millions of records over the last 25 years, with five studio albums to its name, of which the first two are classics. The British band’s debut album, The Hurting, dissected personal frustration and adolescent challenges with unmatched precision and offered three moody continental hit singles. Avoiding the sophomore slump with glory rarely heard before or since, 1985’s Songs from the Big Chair blasted global charts with two huge number one anthems, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Shout,” and a third smash, “Head Over Heels.”

After those mid-80s heights, the band released just one more album of collaborative work from school friends and founders Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, the meticulously produced and reproduced The Seeds of Love. Three years later, in 1992, Smith left the band, and Orzabal released two more albums under the Tears for Fears name with various comrades, all talented but none as important to the band as Smith. Near the end of 2004, a decade and a half after they last brought an album to market together, Orzabal and Smith offer longtime fans and new, significantly younger listeners, their best album in 20 years.

Everybody Loves a Happy Ending is a polychromatic, sweeping collection of gorgeous guitar-pop gems, a clever and harmonious amusement park filled with fun rides listeners will want to board over and over. The album opens with its title track and one minute of aquatic guitars and sighs. Then, suddenly, an old-fashioned alarm clock rings and Orzabal announces: “Wake up / Your time is nearly over / No more the supernova / No action guaranteed.” The chopping guitars and drums are reminiscent of classic Split Enz songs from the early 80s, and Orzabal sings like a British Ben Folds. The track is terrific, with drastic changes of pace that keep listeners guessing what’s next.

“Closest Thing to Heaven” begins with prominent piano and Orzabal singing like a carefree 20-something. The track appears to be the sibling to the band’s last major hit single, “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” 15 years ago. The drum fill in the middle of “Closest Thing to Heaven” was unmistakably inspired by similar playing in “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” but there is no regurgitation here. Tears for Fears offers original blissful pop for a new generation with equal grace. The band’s first single for Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, “Call Me Mellow,” plots out a challenging relationship with flashbacks to Coney Island, ringing guitars, royal horns, and Orzabal’s highest tones ever offered to the masses.

The album’s quieter moments are left for Smith to deliver his clear, impassioned vocals, and he demonstrates the same gripping singing style on “Size of Sorrow” and the more dynamic “Who You Are” as he did so memorably on “Pale Shelter” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” The best of the 12 songs on Everybody Loves a Happy Ending is the gargantuan, romantic “Secret World.” This breathtaking mini-epic uses 20 seconds of trumpets near mid-track to enhance the feeling of bouncy travels just barely above the clouds.

On “Secret World,” Orzabal sings with tremendous joy and excitement, like Paul McCartney at his peak. “This is a garden / This is a steeple / I hear the crowd before I ever see the people / Yours for the asking / And for the taking / There is a power in the vacuum we were making.” Love songs don’t get much more invigorating than “Secret World.” The album gets more serious and philosophical near the end, with the lush, synthesized “Killing with Kindness” a particular highlight. Orzabal deliberately proclaims: “Don’t cry for me my baby / Don’t say you would / Everyone knows you’re a dangerous bird / Fly like a golden eagle / Sleek like the snow / Taking your time wherever you go.” The song opens up and swallows much more space near its conclusion, reaching high volumes before its sudden end.

Everybody Loves a Happy Ending closes with its funkiest, most laid-back song, “Last Days on Earth.” The keyboard flourishes, and tropical percussion give the song a warmth and ease that leave a silly smile on the listener’s face. Orzabal has never sounded so good, with a mature rhythm and blues approach that makes him appear as if he is serenading a stranger on a cruise ship. That sincerity of sound and vision typifies the entire album, and Tears for Fears has never come off more relaxed or happy than it does on Everybody Loves a Happy Ending.

This is an LP perfect for anyone who appreciates sugary guitar-pop hooks and occasional brass infusions that don’t yield cavities or earaches. The schoolmates from Bath have created one of the finest albums of 2004, and only a fool would skip an opportunity to hear such engaging, lyrically sharp pop music. Welcome back, Tears for Fears.