More than a decade has passed since Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith parted ways with their soulful and ambitious swansong, Seeds of Love. Orzabal released two records under the Tears for Fears moniker in the mid-'90s, but the band's signature blend of hook-filled anthems and art pop excess seemed destined to reside eternally in the post-new wave graveyard of the '80s. Then came the film Donnie Darko, a left-field cult hit that featured California singer/songwriter Gary Jules' chart-topping (in the U.K. anyway) rendition of the band's 1983 hit, "Mad World." The renewed interest in the group found the boys ready and willing to set aside their differences and give it another go, and the resulting Everybody Loves a Happy Ending capably exhibits why that interest was there in the first place. Tears for Fears have always dabbled in the Beatlesque, but never as blatantly as on the full-peacock flush of the colorful title cut. Like ELO rearranging Paul and Linda McCartney's "Uncle Albert-Admiral Halsey," it's the first flag in a sea of red signaling a return to form that many deemed unlikely. "Closest Thing to Heaven" builds off of "Sowing the Seeds of Love"'s blueprints -- it even utilizes the mid-track reverse drum fill -- without coming off as a carbon copy. This is the closest they have come to crafting a possible hit single in years, and it's a testament to their "still flexing" pop chops that they can meld a bittersweet piano dirge with a sunny '70s soft rock chorus without sounding contrived. "Who Killed Tangerine" continues mining the Beatles vein, juxtaposing each spooky verse against a chorus reminiscent of "Hey Jude." They haven't abandoned the adult contemporary pop that began to creep in post-Smith -- "Size of Sorrow" and "Ladybird" are nice and forgettable -- but the dark experimental nature of songs like "Quiet Ones" and "Devil" make up for the occasional blandness. Everybody Loves a Happy Ending will do little to convert those who winced at Orzabal and Smith's obtuse lyrics and over the top production the first time around, but loyal followers, fans of XTC's Apple Venus, Pt. 1, and lovers of intricately arranged and artfully executed pop music will find themselves delightfully consumed by another chapter from this enigmatic group.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger