Monday, January 19, 2015

"Halargian World"

Coming off of that post on F sharp minor songs, I want to do a brief review of 'Mad World' by Tears for Fears considering my first hearing of that song was what prompted that post to begin with.

It's a song that, progression aside, makes me laugh for various little reasons, part of them thanks to the music video. The weird introduction. Some of the keyboard-based instrumentation. The abrupt ending, with everything cutting off except the tambourine rhythm. For some reason, and I don't know why, a lot of it makes me think of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Maybe it's the general cause and sound of the music - programmed keyboard synths, the science-fiction sound (to me). The abruptness. The ending is what really brings him to mind for me. Just bluntly abrupt. I don't know. It kind of makes me laugh.

I like how Curt Smith sings the song. His voice harmonizes with the music nicely. I've read that part of the lyrics were influenced by the band's interest in scream therapy, particularly the lyric about how the dreams in which the subject is dying are the best he's ever had. The best in relieving tension and stress - near death experience.

Before I read up on the lyrics, I heard Smith sing something about going to school and nervousness and teachers, and my first thought was that he was going in-depth on something minor or pointless in a funny way, creating another base for humour. Then there was the change in the last chorus, from 'mad world' to 'Halargian world.' At first I didn't get much but it just encouraged Sheldon to pop up in my mind again.

Some lyrics can obviously be attributed to writer Roland Orzebal's childhood - the kind of bleak way he writes, like about "children waiting for the day they feel good - happy birthday, happy birthday." As if that's the only real feel-good day. "And to feel the way that every child should, sit and listen, sit and listen." Several songs on that album (which is their first) refer to bitter upbringing. The album is called The Hurting, after all.

The music video is quite paradoxically sunny and bleak and weird.


Curt Smith must be the most burdened person in the world at that window, from which he never moves. What I find hilarious is the party scene; you can see him sadly standing at the window in the background, even though someone's having a birthday cake five feet behind him. Apparently the people around the table were friends and relatives of the two, including Curt's wife and mother, whose birthday they were celebrating. Everyone's cheerfully celebrating with party whistles and clown costumes and cake, but poor Curt won't move from his desolate position at the window in the background, apart from it all, interminably troubled.

Meanwhile, his friend is also absent, instead choosing to stand out on the dock outside to mime random gesticulations. I'm sure in the world of the song, Curt's mother probably decided she wouldn't bother inviting her troubled son and his unusual friend over for cake and cheer next time.

It's funny, though. That's the kind of physical humour I'd probably come up with if I were an early 80s band like Tears for Fears. During the bridge, Orzebal throws a ball and starts moving randomly again, until he's crossfaded with Curt at the sunny window. In the end, it cuts to these random people at night, lit up in the darkness. The intro to the song features a zoom-in to the same people standing in the sun as well. No idea who they are or how they fit in, unless they are some sort of country gypsy-type characters who possess a Roland Orzebal voodoo doll, with which they move his arms and twist his head and torso. And look, there they are at night, shrouded in mysterious white light, having not moved an inch. I wonder if that scene was shot from a boat. I also wonder what any river (or lake?) travellers might have thought when they saw a random guy downstream (or on the opposite shore) out on a dock silently moving his upper body and arms. Maybe he was practising swimming in his clothes before taking the dive? If they saw the gypsies I doubt they would have made any connection.

It's a good song. The instrumentation gives me a cool image and light and colour - and by cool I mean cool temperature. This could be a good winter song despite being filmed in the summer.

Music: B
Lyrics: B
Video: B+

This was Tears for Fears' first hit of any kind, and it's a good start for a band that would go on to make major contributions to 80s pop culture, considering their later songs like 'Shout' and 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World.'

"Happy birthday to...hey, Curt, get away from that damn window and cut the cake! Where's that mate of yours? ...Why is he out on the dock? He's doing what? Get over here!"

Red Cloud
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