25 February 2022-
Today marks the release of two interesting new releases: Soft Cell's first album in 20 years, Happiness Not Included, and Tears for Fears' first album in 18 years, The Tipping Point...
These may not exactly be two sides of the same coin, but you have to admit that both Tears for Fears and Soft Cell are iconic 80’s pop bands, so iconic in fact that their biggest hits have far surpassed their initial fame and crossed over into our era, with the infamous Marilyn Manson covering Soft Cell‘s “Tainted Love”, while Tears for Fears have seen enduring success through it all… Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
The story of Soft Cell’s initial shortcomings and eventual mega-stardom is interesting — and well documented. The duo formed by Marc Almond and David Ball started out as a somewhat experimental electro-pop (or synthpop, as it was then called) outfit, releasing an EP and 2 singles in overwhelming obscurity. Then, as a Hail Mary, they decided they would try and cover a Northern Soul classic (which had never properly charted) and make it one of the most anthemic songs of the 1980’s — “Tainted Love“. The rest, as they say, is history: they released a couple of successful albums before splitting up, with Almond then opting for a solo career. And a pretty successful one at that: 24 studio albums, dozens of singles (including another #1 hit in the late 1980’s, “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart”) and a bit of a cult following… Yet, he eventually decided to reunite with Ball, releasing the band’s fourth album back in 2002, Cruelty Without Beauty. That comeback of sorts was not tremendously successful, however, which may have caused the pair to give it a go one more time and cap their storied career in a different way… if it is the end, that is.
Meanwhile, Tears for Fears have had a slightly different trajectory. For starters, their initial period of fame lasted much longer, throughout the entire 1980’s in fact. Hits like “Shout“, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” or “Sowing the Seeds of Love” are mainstays in popular culture to this day. And they kept finding success in the decade that followed: 1993’s Elemental, while not necessarily reaching the same heights as previous albums did, was still a #5 hit in the charts… The other key difference is that the band didn’t quite break up as definitively as Soft Cell did: this duo, comprised of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, largely kept at it. Granted, there were off moments: the original quartet setup imploded in the late 1980’s, a break up in the early 1990’s was followed by Smith leaving the band, only to come back 9 years later and never leave again. This new album actually seemed to follow in the very same footsteps: halfway through the making of it, Smith all but walked away. Again. But the pair eventually made up and were able to finish the work… To our utmost delight!
I suppose the 1980’s are back, be it in music, fashion — or politics…