Adventures of a University Finalist

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Yer Blues


Tears For Fears - The Seeds of Love (Phonogram, 1989)

Tears For Fears - Badman's Song
Tears For Fears - Sowing the Seeds of Love
Tears For Fears - Advice For the Young at Heart

In response to my previous demi-post on Top 100 Singles of All Time, I would have to say that quite a few Tears For Fears song would be in a Spartacus style gladiatorial fight to the death to appear in the Top Ten. However, I do believe that "Sowing the Seeds of Love" would ultimately triumph with a well aimed spear to "Head Over Heels"s left kidney after giving "Closest Thing to Heaven" a good ol' fashioned kick in the crotch. Have you listened to it lately? If not, like myself until a well timed VH1 special on the duo a week or so ago, then you should go back to it. It's a fascinating piece of work that epitomises the Tears For Fears boys as endless innovators nom atter how often people have the tendency to proclaim that awful curse of "Beatles Pastiche Ahoy!" More often than not music criticism descends into a petty game of "Name the Influence" rather than doing any leg work trying to get to the heart of the song on its own merits. To me, that's not only fucking lazy but harms the industry and if they're going to do it then why not trying to pick up the subtle hints to long forgotten classics rather than just writing "Beatles" in big bold letters before swanning off for another fag break with the other sallow faced goons with the coffee coloured fingertips.
So with that edition of "What Really Grinds My Gears" over and done with, I have to say that "Sowing..." is supported by some fabulous tunes on the 'The Seeds of Love' album with "Badman's Song", "Advice For the Young at Heart", and "Year of the Knife" all stone cold classics with "Badman's Song" being remarkably close to being the highlight of the album. It was certainly a troubled production with Smith and Orlazabal firing a string of producers, including Chris Hughes (who worked on 'Songs From the Big Chair') and the legendary tag team of Langer & Winstanley, in a search for a new vibrant and all encompassing big band sound that would include Oleta Adams, a gospel singer that the Tears boys discovered one night on their mammoth tour of the US. As Orlazabal himself says of the inclusion of Adams (and I'm paraphrasing wildly here), "Here she was playing a dingy bar and could reduce the entire audience to tears whilst we were selling out stadiums... and we were crap!" She's the second half of the MOR balladic duet that kicks off the album which I personally have no time for whatsoever, "Woman in Chains", and crops up on the other cuts too with a key contribution to "Badman's Song".
In this pursuit of a psychedelic pop perfection, Tears For Fears were certainly well intentioned as they did not want to become a band stuck in a groove; a self-pitying groove at that that seemed to want to blend nihilism with catchy synth pop melodies. An intoxicating concotion no doubt (the tape of 'Songs in the Big Chair' that I had in my car for my own listening pleasure broke due to sheer overplaying) but if taken to often will begin to leave a bad taste in the mouth. They themselves contend that this turn around was intrinsically a good idea yet the execution was "pretty terrible" but I would disagree with them on that. Admittedly, despite its eight songs, the album clocks in at almost 50 minutes meaning that some songs do overstay their welcome but overall the only one I have any significant problems with is "Woman in Chains" which just seems to have aged terribly. Unlike, "Sowing the Seeds..." which kicks off with that backward sample, churning organ chords and Roland doing his best impersonation of Lowell George belting out "Tripe Face Boogie" as he can before Curt comes in with those harmony vocals in the chorus that make my colon do a quick samba with my upper intestine. It's a British take on David Byrne's getting wasted behind a factory in "And She Was" and thus, is a lot more controlled drifting toward Syd Barrett and The Move rather than Talking Heads' art-funk. Those constant synth washes are slightly off putting and the horn break reminds me a little too much of the Sgt Pepper fiasco at Live 8 but these are overshadowed by the numerous touches of brilliance elsewhere. These include the Was Not Was style production at around 2:10 that sounds like the Frog Prince kissed the princess but reverted into a moog instead of a man; the bridge beginning from 2:30 with Curt's wordless harmonies accompanied by handclaps, violins, an opera singer (a touch of genius bordering on the inclusion of one on the Token's original version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"), and that noise that just sounds like entropy; Roland's answer to Oleta's singing of the title where he hollers "Sowing love seeds!" is divine intervention in personam; Curt singing the second bridge (to be honest, this song's arrangement is so lovingly bizarre in its disparity that I don't even know whether its a verse, a bridge, or a breakdown) before Roland starts to overlap him answering with the first verse. Unbelievablely creative work that deserves a swift reappraisal.
"Advice For the Young at Heart" is a good supporting evidence for that with its 60s Havana Club marimba shimmy with green olives on the table, floral shirts on the back and cocktail umbrellas in the hair. Yet, I must urge you that if you only have space for one song on your belt buckling hard drives then I would have to say that you should plump up for "Badman's Song". You'll have heard "Sowing the Seeds..." plenty of times and "Advice..." does suffer a little from a case of the Michael McDonald blue eyed soul-givitis. "Badman's Song" begins with an improvising call and answer session between drums and piano before a shout of "1, 2, 3, 4" and then it all goes Wings with a squall of organ and strong bass line pushing toward a stadium sound. Before long it settle down to bass, drums and Roland before beginning to reascend toward the pre-chorus and the gospel harmonies led by Oleta who then takes the song by the collar swinging it into another direction as the arrangement becomes even more layered. There's Supremes style "ooh oohs", a solid guitar solo, at 5:20 it turns back to what started it off, a tough battle between piano and drums, and then a healthy prime rib cut of slide guitar provided by Robbie McIntosh, he of The Pretenders and McCartney's touring band. It's an exercise in musical multiple personality disorder with its mix of blues, gospel, and soul but that seems to be a fair assessment of albums produced by bands who want to escape their archetypal sound. They'll try anything and, as a result, it may be all over the place but that's what it makes it so fascinating.

Buy - Tears For Fears - The Seeds of Love
Visit - Tears For Fears