Forgotten series: Tears For Fears – Everybody Loves A Happy Ending (2004)

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by Tom Johnson

I’ve been what you might refer to as a reluctant Tears For Fears fan for most of my life. Like with Crowded House, it wasn’t until well after their hitmaking days that I could actually admit that my musical tastes have pretty much circulated around these two bands all along, even if my tastes diverge from them as frequently as they do mesh with them.

Being a “metal guy” in high school, it was pretty much totally uncool to say how much I truly loved Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and Tears For Fears “Head Over Heels,” but thankfully I can’t see a reason to find shame in admitting that now. I was a stupid kid who swore up and down that Def Leppard was the best band in the world, even while knowing that “Don’t Dream” was just about the most gorgeous piece of songwriting I’d ever heard — that’s just not cool to admit. Not to slight Def Lep. I’m just saying, take a look at my collection and see which two of the three bands mentioned above still have a home in my collection.

And why wouldn’t they? Those two songs are damn near the premier examples of the perfect pop song, outside of, say, the output of a little Liverpool band in the 1960s.

I know Tears For Fears ended for a lot of people with 1989’s The Seeds Of Love, what with Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal getting all Pink Floyd, as Smith took off for a solo career and Orzabal continued on with the “band.” Fans pretty much turned a deaf ear to Orzabal’s two offerings, but as with all things of this nature, I have to ask myself that if they didn’t have the burden of living up to the TFF moniker, wouldn’t most fans have loved them? Most likely, they really weren’t all that much different than the more serious pieces on Seeds Of Love, if maybe they indulged in the big sappy balladeering too much. (Well, why not, when you’ve got the glorious golden pipes of Roland Orzabal pushing them forward?)

With Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, the boys mended whatever likely meaningless differences had separated them. Going in, I got the usual worries that arise from something like this: Is this a cash-in, an album most likely filled with very tiresome and hackneyed filler and one hopefully Big Hit, or is this an album of music that simply had to be made, needed to be made, filtered down from the ether to the TFF teammates who, in dramatic 1980s teen-flick fashion, made a mad dash to each other after the Big Revelation woke them from their depressed slumbers (and probably through likely rain-slicked streets, you know?)

Then its release got pushed back, and Arista Records unceremoniously dropped the band. After hearing Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, I still have to ask, “Arista, what the hell were you thinking?” Even if the album can’t possibly match the sales of Songs From The Big Chair or The Seeds Of Love, this is the kind of artistic statement labels should want to have among their roster.

As if the 1990s never happened, Happy Ending picked right up where Seeds left off, with an especially fitting placement of the title song in the first-track position. “Everybody Loves A Happy Ending” summed up everything people loved about Tears For Fears. It was all here, from the soaring vocals to the breakdown in the second half of the song that features a happily-lifted-from-the-Beatles-songbook melody, complete with Orzabal’s well-placed impression of that ascending “wooooh” thing that Paul McCartney pretty much patented. So what if the chorus of “Call Me Mellow” nicks the melody of The La’s “There She Goes”? No one seemed to care that the chorus of Modest Mouse’s “Float On” is just James’ “She’s A Star,” so who’s to blame TFF for borrowing a great chorus too? And it had to be intentional that “Who Killed Tangerine” almost perfectly mimics the halting structure of the Beatles’ “Come Together,” right?

If there was one thing people might have found fault with, it was that the album is a true album. You need to hear it as a collection of specific songs in specific spots because, individually, the songs aren’t as strong as their past offerings. But together, it’s a great album. That’s nothing to scoff at: A great album is something that’s become more and more rare, as bands struggle desperately to get a foothold in the industry with just a single song. Maybe some were turned off since it was also drawn more from the post-breakup style Orzabal crafted for TFF. To me, there was just enough of Smith’s psychedelic pop influence to keep it from getting as dry as the band’s material without him often did.

Regardless, there’s a hell of a lot of beauty in Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, and it’s a great tragedy that it has gone largely ignored.

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