Analog Adventures: Songs from the Big Chair

Tears for Fears

Songs from the Big Chair

(1985)

About the Artist

The 1980s is a decade full of synthesizers, jangly guitars, and excess. At its best you find artists like Tears for Fears. The British duo of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith takes influence from new wave acts such as the Talking Heads and Brian Eno and applies pop sensibilities to create a timelessly 80s sound. The band found success in 1983 with their debut album The Hurting which produced the hit Mad World. That song became more famous as a cover by Gary Jules for the 2001 film Donnie Darko. The cover is a somber piano led track, wildly different than the original synthpop track. The fact that their music sounds good covered in such a different style demonstrates the strength of their songwriting. Songs from the Big Chair is a showcase for the band’s finest songwriting, with each song as good as the last.

The Album Itself

Songs from the Big Chair is a perfect snapshot of 1980s synthpop and new wave genres. The production quality of the album is top notch and includes everything from warm analog synths to a Phil Collins-esque big snare sound. Everybody Wants to Rule the World is the bands most endearing single from the album. The looping guitar creates a dreamy atmosphere that is only replicated by aged 35mm film or VHS home videos. This is genuine warmth that is often imitated but never sincerely replicated. Mothers Talk takes a bold step in another direction. Combining club beats with nods to progressive rock, this song keeps building upon itself. Layers upon layers of instruments come together to birth an up-tempo party anthem that could pass for early Depeche Mode. It’s not all pop anthem after anthem; there is plenty of room for balladry with I Believe. Far from the new wave sounds of the other tracks, this is a smooth cabaret style ballad, intimately sung with a piano and drum accompaniment. A saxophone joins Orzabal for a duet then solo.

The rear cover of the record

Physically Speaking

The album is a standard 140 grams with a black and white cover. The simplicity of the cover is understated, just Orzabal and Smith posing for the camera. The rear cover is equally elegant, with all the tracks laid out in the middle of the record. The first edition of this record is well mixed, save for some low ends on a few tracks. This is easily remedied by simply turning up the bass on any good audio setup.

Is it Worth It?

Songs from the Big Chair has eight tracks and clocks in at just about 42 minutes, but each song is a masterclass in pop music songwriting. Songs such as Shout, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Mothers Talk, and Head Over Heels still receive considerable airplay. Good copies are not difficult to come by, selling for anywhere between $5-20 depending on the condition of the record. If you have any appreciation for the zeitgeist of the 1980s, have ever enjoyed a John Hughes movie, or just like new wave, this album is a perfect addition to your collection.

Outstanding Tracks

  • Everybody Wants to Rule the World
  • Mothers Talk
  • Head over Heels
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Jose Diaz

Jose Diaz

Collector of analog media.

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