Tears for Fears has never been known for releasing happy music. Even when their music is bright and elaborately arranged, there’s always been an underlying sense of righteous anger to the band’s songs. Now, after a gap between non-compilation albums of 17 years, Tears for Fears returns with The Tipping Point, a record that paints original band members Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith as survivors of a world they idealistically wanted to change but which wound up changing them instead.
The soul music influences prevalent on Sowing the Seeds of Love are muted here, and the Beatles-like layers of horns and strings found on Everybody Loves A Happy Ending are employed sporadically. The songs on The Tipping Point are centered less around catchy riffs and singalong choruses. Insightful lyrics and textures form the crux of the tunes, creating an ever-interesting combination of the band’s old sound and a new style, just now coming into play.
The repercussions of the 2017 death of Orzabal’s wife infuse the album, including the lead-off single and title track “The Tipping Point.” A gorgeous although terribly sad song, “The Tipping Point” goes a long way toward recapturing the feel of Tears for Fears music from the 1980s without indulging in a pandering nostalgia trip. It’s a dirge you can dance to, but the song’s emotional impact rumbles through the subtle groove.
“Please Be Happy” provides a harrowing glimpse into the desperation of living with someone suffering from depression. “If you lay among the graves, you will see all the ghosts,” Smith sings before adding, “I still believe this love can grow.” It’s a heart-puncher of a song, hope in the face of inevitable loss.
Although moments of The Tipping Point feel like uncomfortable confessions, the band has retained a sardonic sense of humor. “My Demons” is as close to a headbanger as Tears for Fears has ever recorded. “Why is my name in lights,” Orzabal sings, “when my name’s spelled wrong?”
Much like their contemporaries Duran Duran, which released the stellar Future Past in October 2021, Tears for Fears is one of the few 1980s bands still releasing quality music. Both groups have embraced their past and incorporated elements of that sound into their new albums while being unafraid to show their musical growth. On The Tipping Point, Tears for Fears looks inward and brings forth an album as personal as it is lush.
Imbued with both sadness and a sense of wonder, The Tipping Point finds Tears for Fears in a place of wizened acceptance, grateful for any pieces of kindness and grace that comes their way. The lyrical openness and surprising instrumentation make The Tipping Point both glorious and sobering, providing the listener with moments of unexpected joy. The Tipping Point may not showcase the Tears for Fears longtime fans are expecting, but it’s a satisfying album, bordering on great, and worth more than one listen.