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1 rating: 1.0
An album by Tears for Fears

Tears For Fears: Roland Orzabel (vocals, guitar, keyboards, programming); Curt Smith (vocals, keyboards, bass); Ian Stanley (keyboards, programming); Manny Elias (drums, programming). Additional personnel: Caroline Orzabal (vocals); Phil Palmer (guitar); … see full wiki

1 review about Hurting

Warning, album may reawaken old memories best left asleep

  • Feb 27, 2008
Pros: Perfect example of 1980s teen angst

Cons: Perfect example of 1980s teen angst

The Bottom Line: I recommend it with qualifications (read the next to last paragraph to see if it applies).

Typically I review an album/recording/CD song by song like reviewing short stories. Some recordings call for that because each of the songs falls in different categories or are difficult to group. And sometimes there are just songs that totally suck so a particular warning is required.

Occasionally a recording, either by accident or design, has a consistent tone or theme throughout. This is the way I will take on Tears for Fears’s The Hurting. In 1983 when the album was released (and I bought it as an album), I was 14 and not even two years away from the emotional breakdown that sometimes comes along with letting go of the closet door. After that, the record moved from something I used to calm me to a record that kept me as balanced as was possible at the time. So the review is deeply personal, but I will do all I can to keep the nostalgia at bay with the objectivity that comes with more than 20 years distance from these events, still . . . I’ll mark the personal section, so feel free to skip that part.

Begin Personal Stuff

I no longer have the album; it was lost during one of my many moves. I bought the CD only a few years ago—I stayed away from it because, while needed at the time shortly after its original release, I thought it would bring back memories I wanted left at bay. The CD cover shows a young boy with his arms wrapped around his knees and head on that construction—all of this in the bottom right of what is otherwise total whiteness (except for the name of the album).

I made mention in a different review that something profound at 16 can be supremely embarrassing even just 5 years later, let alone 20. My example for this was The Breakfast Club. Seeing it only a few years after I thought it so profound left me feeling extremely hollow. Not all items thought profound at 16 become embarrassing later. For me the continued profounds are The Smiths, Morrissey, Everything but the Girl, and this one album (TFF’sSongs from the Big Chair was ok but didn’t have the emotional impact of what I’m covering here).

Depressing songs for the already depressed would seem to make things only much worse. My friends whose lives put them in similar circumstances would disagree. The men and women who made these so-called depressing songs would now be called either “emo,” or “goth” or both. I and my friends were goths before the term made it into the clique lexicon so I won’t argue with this classification. These depressing songs helped us understand something important: you are not alone. The last thing you want to hear when you are in the hovering state between emotional flatlining and a pistol is some pop song about how good love feels; those songs only serve to indicate just how far you are from what is considered more “normal”—defined only by size of the population rather than another, more abstract measure.

I grew up in Atlanta so I knew I wasn’t alone, but even when I was with people in my non-conformist group there were many times when I still felt alone—the same is true for them I believe, but it was a topic we never talked about. Still, what I think now that never occurred to me then was how important recordings like this would be to people in less tolerant areas. How many teens in small cities (where this music was available in some stores even if no on any radio station they could receive) got some sense of belonging because of records and songs like those on The Hurting.

And let’s face it. The Smiths’s album titles: The Smiths, Meat Is Murder, Hatful of Hollow and others really say nothing to someone who has never heard Morrissey croon. But when you are in a record store and see an album called The Hurting there really is no other way to scream how relevant this might be to a teen who really didn’t have a solid peer group except among what were more than not just called freaks.

End Personal Stuff

The Hurting is like very few recordings. Every song from beginning to end keep the same theme and tone (U2’s October is the only other one that comes to mind but if I gave it more brainpower I probably could name others). The recording is made of depressing songs. Wouldn’t you feel cheated if you bought an album called The Hurting and it turns out to be a horrible pun when you start to hear Ms. Spears or other such screech songs that even more pretentious vixens would find too retarded to sing? With song titles like “The Hurting,” “Mad World,” “Suffer the Children,” and “Watch Me Bleed” you can be sure that 45 minutes of happiness is not in your near future.

The music is generally consistent and can at times repetitive (“Ideas as Opiates” and “The Prisoner” excepted—they are still in the depressive vein, but the music is noticeably different from the other songs). Instead of being boring, however, it turns out to be meditative. The purpose for The Hurting is not to be a dance album. It isn’t it really intended to be a concert album (though I’m sure they did tour with it). I’ve always thought that the only place the concert would work is in the mental ward of a children’s hospital treating the suicidal teens.

I think the question, especially for those of us about to (or who have recently) turn 40, is whether—if you liked the recording—the album works anymore. I think the answer is a qualified yes. However, if you have never heard of the album or any of the tracks from it, then there is no reason to recommend it. If it worked at all, it worked on moody teens in the middle 1980s

“You don’t give me love, you give me pale shelter” (from “Pale Shelter”) as an image still works today, and I think it works for more than those of us who have owned this recording. As an adult I realize that the idea is not original and the description is not as meaty as it sounded with less experience, but that doesn’t truly diminish the impact. For me, this also tied in with a lyric from The Smiths song “There Is a Light that Never Goes Out: “Take me anywhere because it’s not my home it’s their home and I’m welcome no more.”

“With hungry joy, I’ll be your toy, just hoping you will play; without the hope, my body starts to fail” (from “Memories Fade”) C’mon, who doesn’t like this sentiment? The rest of “Memories Fade” continues this sort of imagery. If you are turning up your nose or your stomach is turning, then you don’t need to read any further (but if you’ve come this far . . .)

“And I find it kind of funny and I find it kind of sad that the dream in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had” (from “Mad World”). Even Morrissey at his most desolate would not tackle this head on (“Asleep” is a suicide song, but it is far more subtle). When you are nearly out of your mind with name-the-emotion, that kind of line is, believe it or not, calming and a bit uplifting in that it removes just a bit of weight from untanned shoulders.

Recommending something like this is very difficult because there are so many conditionals that boiling it down to one of five stars is essentially impossible, so I will run through the conditionals (over all the rating will be a 3 with qualified recommendation): current conformist teens, one star; previous conformist teens, one star; somewhat outsider then or now, three stars depending on the level of disconnect from the critical mass of the popular; outcasts, non-conformist misfits near the time of the original release, five stars. For non-conformists, emos and misfits today, four or five stars; I actually recommend it fairly highly for this group because it can help put their emotional state in a broader context. Yes, there are some of us out there who still identify with the misfits and recordings like this one is how we (perhaps only I) use to remind us of that solidarity.

I just did something I try not to do when reviewing something that others have. I don’t want mine to be swayed and by not reading the reviews any image or comparison that one review or other shares with this one is coincidental. Everyone rated it highly. Except as described above, I completely agree.


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Label: Mercury
Artist: Tears For Fears
Release Date: March 13, 2001

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