Monday 18 February 2019

Tears For Fears: They still want to rule the mad world

Playing Dublin's 3Arena this Thursday, Tears For Fears are the authors of complex, post-Beatles power-pop

Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith of the band Tears for Fears
Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith of the band Tears for Fears
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Looking skyward, Donnie Darko rides his bike home down the hill and falls asleep. At midnight, he is stirred from his slumber by Frank-Bunny, an imaginary creature in a rabbit costume, who saves Donnie from a jet engine that is about to crash into his bedroom while telling him that the world will end in 28 days. The movie Donnie Darko, in which all this happens, features a cover of Tears for Fears's Mad World. Tears For Fears's Roland Orzabal wrote Mad World about his own interior mad world when he was 19.

"I had suffered from depression in my childhood," Orzabal told The Guardian in 2013. "My dad had been in the Second World War, had electric shock treatment, suffered from anxiety.

"I kept a lid on my feelings at school but, when I was 18, dropped out of everything and couldn't even be bothered to get out of bed. I poured all this into the song."

"My father was a bit of a monster," Orzabal also told People in 1985. "My brothers and I would lie in our room at night crying. I've always been distrusting of males since then." Orzabal recalled how Arthur Janov's psychology book The Primal Scream helped him deal with his parents' separation and his own difficult relationship with his dad. "I always thought I had a difficult childhood until I saw the film Angela's Ashes," Orzabal laughed in 2017.

When he was 14, Orzabal met Curt Smith, whose parents had also separated when he was young, and they formed a life-long bond and, in 1981, a group that would go on to sell more than 30m albums. Both brought up in broken homes in Bath by their respective mothers, Orzabal and Smith were very alike yet different.

"I was, like, the guy who sat at the front of the class and did his homework and did everyone else's homework and got A grades," said Orzabal recently. "And Curt was walking through the streets of Bath, and this police car would pull up and bundle him in," Orzabal added in reference to Smith's mercifully brief teenage career in very petty crime. "One year, he got me a birthday present," Orzabal said of Smith. "It was a violin he stole from school. Not that I wanted a violin."

Whatever about Orzabal and bowed stringed instruments, the world definitely seemed to want the Beatles-sounding power pop of Mad World, Shout and Everybody Wants to Rule the World (the latter was a single from Tears for Fears's debut album, 1983's The Hurting.) They became multimillionaire pop stars. Then in 1990 they split up. Orzabal and Smith didn't speak to each other for almost a decade.

Smith described it as the longest sulk in history. "The split was rather what's the word, painful," Orzabal explained. "We'd been together, in and out of bands, since we were 14 years old. And we got to that certain age, 28 years old, where you kind of just want to be your own man."

Tears For Fears are working on a new album, their first since 2004's Everybody Loves a Happy Ending. Intriguingly, Orzabal admitted that after their second album, 1985's Songs from the Big Chair and during 1989's The Seeds of Love album he "ended up doing primal therapy then I realised so much of you is your character, and you're born like it. I think that definitely any trauma - whether it's childhood or later in life - affects you negatively, especially when it's suppressed, but there's so much of us which is already in place."

Humorously, Smith related the trauma of Michael Andrews and Gary Jules's cover of Mad World from the Donnie Darko soundtrack. "Thanks to them, our version now sounds like crap," he told Entertainment Weekly in 2004. "It's strange when you play a song you wrote and you feel like you're playing a bad cover."

Tears For Fears with special guest Alison Moyet play Dublin's 3Arena this Thursday. Tickets from Ticketmaster.

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