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Don't Steal Just Borrow!
on 14 September 2015
When Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith patched up their issues of nearly 10 years and re-united as Tears for Fears in 2000, I was one of the many hardcore fans on Cloud No.9! My dreams came true. I remember promoting Tears for Fans on Fanbase web site and even getting in touch with radio stations in India to spread the news. At the time and even now, their music means a lot to me. Then I remember listening to Roland's interview on BBC about the reunion and he was talking about the song titles for this new album and a working title- 'Everybody Loves a Happy Ending'. The first single that was released turned out to be 'Closest Thing to Heaven' which initially to my surprise was something quite ordinary and middle-of-the-road stuff. It didn't sound bad but for a band that has made songs like 'Listen' and 'Working Hour'... to be promoting a song like that as a comeback single was a bit off-putting.
I finally bought the album in late 2005. The album on the surface sounds good but on repeated listening, one would discover that this is more of a Beatles-Wings-PinkFloyd-other 60s-70s music pastiche. Maybe there is nothing wrong with it. But there is definitely a problem when anyone uses literal samples from 'A Day in the Life of...' (check out the title track), 'Come Together' ( on 'Who Killed Tangerine'), 'There She Goes' or a classic Monkees track (on 'Call Me Mellow'), '. There is nothing great about it and it is not something to be applauded if they think it is clever to do it. 'Seeds of Love' at least had some character to it although it was a Beatles pastiche and it was in context with what they were singing about as well. But here, it is like "We want to show that we can make a music album reminiscent of the late 60s and 70s if you think we are an 80s band"). As it is, to even re-create 80s music would probably have not been a good option for them (although in hindsight, that would have been far more welcome than using samples from other people's music). There was no need for Tears for Fears to do something like that given that they are talented and technically gifted musicians. They work best when they are themselves. This does shine through on great overlooked numbers such as 'The Devil', 'The Quiet Ones', 'Last Days on Earth' and the Curt Smith-Charlton Pettus penned song 'Who You Are'. Those songs are the true highlights.
The other problem is that the arrangements for all its prog-rock 'cleverness' is predictable here. On majority of the songs, you have Roland singing the lead on main verses and then Curt Smith singing the lead on choruses. Again, nothing wrong with that but for some reason because of this stolen 60s-70s psychedelia, it just becomes uninteresting. It was almost like a plan to do this rather than acting by instincts.
The album, nevertheless, is good. There are no fillers as such and many fans would find it appealing. But this is not a ground-breaking work by any means and it could so easily have been one had they followed something in the vein of Roland Orzabal's amazing solo work- 'Tomcats Screaming Outside' (released three years prior to this album) or even kind of mixed their 80s sound with something brash and new. Sadly, they didn't and I have been owning a copy of this album for nearly 10 years but I barely listen to it, these days.I love this band and have a soft spot for them. But they are much better than playing like an act with no fresh ideas and stealing- not borrowing- structures and samples of music from other bands. Ironically, on the track- 'Size of Sorrow', there is a line Curt Smith sings- 'Don't steal just borrow'.