The Hurting is the kind of album that gets deeper, and deeper still, the longer you listen. Thirty years haven’t changed that, as this newly remixed and expanded version of Tears for Fears’ 1983 debut shows. In miniature, The Hurting works as brilliant piece of minimalist synthpop. But listen more closely, really listen, and the album’s underlying themes — as angry and heartbreaking as anything on John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band ever was — begin to take shape. It’s as stark a record as Tears for Fears ever put out, even if 1985′s Songs from the Big Chair was the bigger seller.
The Lennon comparison is apt, too, since Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith likewise explore the awful aftermath of troubled youth through the prism of Arthur Janov’s outsider primal scream therapy. But this was a different age, and Tears for Fears didn’t have the gravitas of having been in a epoch-shifting group beforehead. So, The Hurting (due for reissue on October 22, 2013 via Universal) is both of its time, with a sound that would have fit inside any MTV video of the day, and it’s clear now terribly brave.
“Pale Shelter” perhaps hints at the successes to come with “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” but more often The Hurting sounds of a piece — like a thought completely formed, and then conveyed in a torrent of emotion. Of course, “Pale Shelter,” along with “Suffer the Children,” had been part of a 1981 demo. (This deluxe re-do includes four different versions of “Suffer the Children,” including a more recently discovered promo edit; as well as the original takes on “Pale Shelter.” None have been issued before on compact disc.) Still, it all fits together into a seamless narrative, with every bleak admission like “Start of the Breakdown” balanced by these strikingly original, and very modern musical ideas. Orzabal used a guitar while composing the album, then saw it transformed via Ian Stanley’s keyboards — creating a friction between traditional singer-songwriter concepts and this new technology — that still intrigues.
Elsewhere on this 30th anniversary edition, there is a rare version of “Change,” previously only availalble as a bonus track on the original cassette edition in the UK. Different takes on “The Prisoner” and “Ideas as Opiates,” the “In My Minds Eye” concert film from Hammersmith, and a new cover of “Ready to Start” by Arcade Fire, are also featured.