photo & text by nacrowe
my earliest memories of TEARS FOR FEARS classic SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR (PHONOGRAM, 1985) record was during my early elementary school years (early 1990s) tagging along with my mom on the leafy campus at CLAREMONT MCKENNA COLLEGE as she was working on her advanced degree in MATH at the time. hearing the record throughout my adulthood i am just reminded of hanging out with my mom as a young child and reading CALVIN AND HOBBES in the college cafeteria. its a period im very fond of and somehow it all connects.
there is a definite playful wistfulness that permeates tracks like "EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD" and "HEAD OVER HEALS," which in my opinion are two of the greatest pop singles produced by any group ever. ENGLISH songwriters ROLAND ORZABAL and CURT SMITH, like lots of musicians in the early 1980s, were experimenting with synthesizers as a means of expanding their sonic palette and what comes across in SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR is a sense of restraint and taste. by all means this is a definitive SYNTH POP record, but it still sounds effectively modern in its production, which utilized LINN DRUMS and an OBERHEIM DMX, as well as a FAIRLIGHT for its rhythm tracks. when DEER GOD had a functioning studio, we had access to a vintage PROPHET V analog synthesizer, which i was particularly psyched on given the model's association with DEVO, FUNKADELIC and of course, TEARS FOR FEARS.
but production and technology aside, what stands out is the quality of the songwriting. these songs evoke a unique blend of unadulterated joy with nostalgic melancholy, like a faded picture of good times long since passed. its bittersweet nature only makes repeat listens that much more seductive and enticing. when i listen to SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR im not thinking about other NEW WAVE or SYNTH POP groups from the era, im just thinking about how anyone came up such special catchy songs that still latch on to your emotions decades after their release. its a powerful record that transcends lyrical content, innovative production techniques or cultural associations.
it is just a timeless record that should be heard by everyone. cant recommend it any more vocally. definitely required listening.