One of the most monstrously successful albums from the mid 1980s was such a popular and critical hit because it was both a collection of great songs, and a strongly coherent album. With rich and colourful production, and most importantly, flawless tunes, now it seems more of a monument than a relic. It might have been dissed by snobs as over-commercial, but it's just a maturer development of the musical flair that they had presented on "The Hurting".
As a ubiquitous pop hit, "Everybody Wants To Rule the World" has suffered from overkill through the years. Slicker than the jagged "Mad World", its four-square tune is oddly compelling. "Head Over Heels" is a lesser known but just as strong cousin of this hit, built on an insistent piano chime. But it's still "Shout" that stands out. Its clanking mechanical rhythms form a foundation for an infuriatingly repetitive chorus. Towards the end of its six minutes, the rhythms are whipped up into a frenzy, over a blazing guitar solo (much like the similar "Mama" by Genesis).
With only 8 tracks, the songs are given space to breathe, and it's to the album's credit that the ideas are more than good enough for this pattern to work. "The Working Hour" swoops and soars over a chiming rhythm and sax solo. "Mothers Talk" is a slightly oddball idea for a song, based on a repetitive chorus and blaring female backing vocals, but it works. The grown-up soul of "I Believe" might be seen as the album's only wet moment, but it's sung and played with sincerity. In another peculiar touch, "Head Over Heels" is segued with a rocking live snatch of the cluttered but focused semi-instrumental "Broken". It's odd to hear cheering on a studio album, but I couldn't imagine it any other way now.
The track here that most defines the respect I have for their musical imaginations is "Listen". Its starts off with a slow throb of synths, joined by some spookily muttered singing. But this is developed in an evocative and daring way for the song's finale, with a chant of indeterminate syllables, shuffling percussion and soaring vocalisations.
For its re-release the package was stuffed with a few B-sides and rehashes. The B-sides are new-wave instrumentals, nothing special, they don't really fit in but don't deserve to be lost either.
October 11, 2004