Sunday, November 17, 2013

Album Review: Tears For Fears - The Hurting Deluxe (1983/2013)

I’m not going to lie to you. I can’t give you any sort of objective review for an album like The Hurting. Anything I offer for the newly released deluxe version of the album can probably be set aside and discarded as little more than the ramblings of a middle aged fanboy. Read on at your peril ...

I’ve owned a few different copies of this album in the years since it was first released – at least a couple on cassette, plus a couple on CD … and maybe even a copy on vinyl before either of those formats. But I was still excited about picking up the 30th anniversary deluxe edition on double disc a few weeks back. A personal affirmation, of sorts, that The Hurting remains a stick-on everythingsgonegreen Desert Island Disc.
 
Back in 1983, the music of Tears For Fears was serious business. Even a year or so before ‘Shout’ made it an even more serious business by taking the band beyond the loving embrace of an intimate few and out into the arms of a wider global populace. Long before the large scale success of the band’s second album, Songs From The Big Chair, took Tears For Fears to the very brink of what might (or might not) have been momentary world domination.

No, it was serious business even before it was big business because of the grim themes explored by Roland Orzabal, Curt Smith, Ian Stanley, and Manny Elias on The Hurting. Orzabal and Smith had studied the work of American psychologist Arthur Janov, whose ideas around “Primal Therapy” – a treatment which deals with unresolved childhood pain – inform much of the album’s content.

To some extent it’s a concept work, an album about childhood, an album about isolation, loss, and abandonment. The album deals with these themes relentlessly. It’s a dark, intense, brooding, heart-on-sleeve masterwork … and very serious business.

Yet, on a personal level it was, and is, a little bit more than that. More than the mere fact that it was “emo” well before emo was so much as a twinkle in the beady eye of the Great God of Teenage Angst.

For me, The Hurting is more about the backdrop it provided for just about anything and everything I did in late 1983, through early 1984. As a soundtrack to my first time “playing house”, as a teenager consumed by the first flush of what I thought was true love. Even today, I can’t listen to the album without that context gently poking me in the ribs.

I can recall a ‘Pale Shelter’ lyric sheet being meticulously removed from the inner pages of a Smash Hits magazine before being pinned to the wall directly above the “marital bed” … sure, I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was deadly serious business.
 
So The Hurting is all of that and more. It’s also probably one of the best debut albums of its decade, and one of synthpop’s alltime finest. It’s immaculately presented, with Chris Hughes and Ross Cullum co-producing. I suppose some of the production does sound a bit dated in a 2013 context, but you know, I’m too close to this album to offer any genuinely accurate assessment there – distance being the mother of all objectivity. Or something.

The deluxe package comes in a couple of different formats – I purchased the two-disc set as opposed to the more comprehensive three-disc plus DVD Deluxe release, but it still represents the album in expanded form. On CD 1 we get the original album; ten tracks clocking in at just under 42 minutes. On CD 2 we get single versions, b-sides, and demos.

And just how many different versions of ‘Pale Shelter’ or ‘Change’ do we need? … there’s four of each included among the 26 tracks found on the double disc edition. More than enough. Not to mention a gut-wrenching five full versions of ‘Suffer The Children’ (where’s the humanity?! – Ed) …
 
But there’s some interesting mixes on the bonus disc, 12-inch versions etc, plus the first shaft of Big Chair light with an early take on ‘We Are Broken’. There’s the odd track on the original album I can no longer really listen to with any amount of enthusiasm (‘The Hurting’, ‘Change’) but the vast majority of it is still pure pop perfection – ‘Mad World’ (ignore the pretenders and imitators), ‘Pale Shelter’, ‘Memories Fade’, and ‘Watch Me Bleed’, all being personal highlights.

The “super deluxe” package offers further material in the form of a third disc of BBC and Peel Sessions, plus some live stuff, and a DVD of the band performing live at the Hammersmith Odeon in December 1983. So far as deluxe releases go, this one is a pretty good one.






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