Mercury Records, 1993
REVIEW BY: Alicia St. Rose
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/29/2000
I have a problem with bands which were once a duo, breaking up and a sole member carrying on with the original band name. It just goes against my grain. To me, this behavior represents the ultimate in cashing in on previous success. And I kind of feel gypped buying an album only to discover it contains half product, so to speak.
The band Tears For Fears is now a moniker for Roland Orzabal's solo efforts. The dynamic of the duo is missing and it shows. Not that Kurt Smith was a musical genius (Orzabal was the principle songwriter) or that his pretty face could out shine Orzabal's stage presence. It's just that together they were so much more. Orzabal probably brought out Smith's abilities and Smith probably tempered Orzabal's self-inflation tendencies.
Elemental was the first release after the schism. A mediocre album with a few high points and a definite low point. This work lacks the giddying heights in production we experienced in Songs From The Big Chair and Orzabal's songwriting skills have gotten a little rusty. Elemental is an album filled with social commentary cum moralistic soapbox preaching. It gets old real fast and you find yourself asking "Just who in the hell does Orzabal think he is?"
Nowhere is this more evident then on the song "Fish Out Of Water." Here Orzabal takes valuable album space to air the dirty laundry between him and Smith. I hate to get involved in others squabbles and the last thing I need is to hear someone's side of the story set to lackluster music. Hey, Roland, couldn't you have just written Kurt a letter and spared us all?
On the songwriting front: Some of these songs are just incomprehensible no matter which way you slice 'em. For instance, in "Dog's A Best Friend's Dog," Orzabal sings: "Three is a crowd / Two is a dog and me playing / (What's he saying) / Free as a cloud / No one ever really knew you / Make clear your illusion no, no, no." The words in parentheses represent a backing chorus. Seems even the back-up singers were having interpretation problems.
To be fair, there are some pleasant moments on the album. "Cold" and "Break It Down Again" offer up some catchy melodies. The warmth of "Brian Wilson Said" stands out among the rest of the songs. Though Orzabal apes the Beach Boy sound he still leaves enough room for his own style to show through. The rest of the album, though, is basically filler, songs with no glimmer of inspiration.
There is a rumor that Orzabal will soon be recording under his own name. I say, Amen! It's high time this nonsense ended. Perhaps with the change will come a fresh approach to song writing and he can achieve success in his own right and not with the name of a now defunct duo.