“Could you please explain the hurting?”
A child ravaged by confusion and intense sadness, crying silently alone while his parents fight relentlessly in the next room about things he doesn’t understand, slurred so he can barely comprehend what they say anyway. He’s getting a crash course on the strangeness of the world, the imperfections, the useless addictions, the meaninglessness of everything.
“The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had”
No album has explored the difficulties of childhood in such a precise, explicit manner. It grasps that a child can realise early on that happiness is not necessarily a natural state, that parents may not be physically or mentally present, that being angry at being alive is as valid an emotion as being content.
“He knows in his heart you won’t be home soon, He’s an only child in an only room”
As historical clichés taught us in the past, the child is supposedly expected to be seen but not heard. But The Hurting provides a voice to the neglected, the abused child. The Hurting believes the child – whether it’s the one crying in the corner of the sleeve or the one next door. Aside from the extraordinary music, this is a uniquely audacious record, an aural social worker. An album that understands.
“What can I do when history’s my cage? Look forward to a future in the past? Memories fade but the scars still linger”
The Hurting knows that abuse tattoos you, that no matter what you do in your life it will always be there. It may not throb with pain the way it does at the time but you can never quite escape it. It also understands that there are adults that want to be better parents but just can’t cope with everything that life throws at them. The child may understand, perhaps even excuse their parents for their failings, but it doesn’t stop a child from feeling like they’ve lost out on their childhood.
“For one so young, I feel so old”
For a debut record, The Hurting is so tightly-constructed, a concept album as opening statement. A brave introduction. Inspired by Janov’s Primal Scream therapy, this is pop music with real depth, a comfort blanket for people who think nobody else bleeds like them, or has suffered the shit that they have. And yet, this was music simultaneously as at home on John Peel’s Show (this three-CD plus DVD reissue includes four Peel session tracks) as it was on Top of the Pops (three top five singles, number one in the album charts).
“Sense of time is a powerful thing”
In an era littered with sublime pop songs, ‘Pale Shelter’ and ‘Mad World’ stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the greatest. And despite the popular belief that Gary Jules’ version of ‘Mad World’ improves upon the original, it really doesn’t. It’s bland and ordinary where Curt Smith’s vocals reek of broken innocence, immersing the worldview of a confused, isolated child into a wonderfully off-kilter, Burundi-rhythmed pop song. ‘Pale Shelter’ is even better, pairing synthpop with an acoustic guitar, allowing the icy atmospherics to feel oddly human – the combination of the artificial and the real emphasised by the drum-machine handclaps.
“You don’t give me love, you give me cold hands”
On their debut record, Tears For Fears constantly surprise. Around every corner are unexpected changes, barmy noises, unusual structures and more hooks than you can shake a fishing rod at. ‘Ideas as Opiates’ is minimal and heartfelt but yet chucks in off-key chords and saxophone wails. ‘The Prisoner’ begins with digital noise and a man shouting the name of the track before an eerie synth nightmare crashes in.
“Is it an horrific dream, Am I sinking fast?”
For someone new to this record, they may not need the endless extras included here (six versions of ‘Suffer The Children’, five of ‘Change’, four of ‘Pale Shelter’ and ‘The Prisoner’). But there are some interesting flawed oddities peppered throughout – B-side ‘We Are Broken’ which later morphed into ‘Head Over Heels’, the looser original 7” version of ‘Suffer the Children’ and ‘Wino’, their failed attempt at a singer-songwriter strumalong.
Tears For Fears have become one of those overlooked bands, largely written out of pop history. They were never really cool and always came across a little po-faced, whether it was because they were singing ‘Shout’ very earnestly on the top of a mountain with their mullets flapping in the wind, proclaiming that they want to rule the world or believing they’re the 80’s equivalent of The Beatles (‘Sowing the Seeds of Love’). And there’s nothing on The Hurting to reverse that image either. This is serious music without a smidgeon of wit in sight. But this is such a special, singular album, full of melody and melancholy, while shining a light on a topic so universal but rarely discussed within the realms of pop music. Yet, for some mysterious reason it remains on the shelf marked forgotten when it really deserves its place in all those ‘greatest albums ever’ lists which fawn over much less deserving records than this.
“And ten out of ten for the ones who defend”