Tears For Fears

Mercury Records, 1993


REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


"When most of these songs were written, I'd spend the morning in my lawyer's office, trying to sort out stuff with Curt [then-recently departed Tears For Fears co-founder Curt Smith]. And then I'd go start writing with Al [producer Alan Griffiths]" is how co-founder and lead vocalist Roland Orzabal describes the way he went about creating Elemental. Well, this had to have some influence on the album, and it has. Ever so occasionally, Roland's state of mind surfaces in the songs in ambiguous forms, leaving the songs open to one's own interpretations of what they mean.

Elemental finds the band (or Roland) in a more agitated state of mind that in most of the other 'Tears For Fears' (TFF) records. "Cold, been excommunicated cos I am cold; my temperature's been rated and I am cold; bring to me my big old sweater, nothing more will make me better" choruses Roland on the frigid "Cold."

Roland's discomfort comes up again in the single "Break It Down Again," but this time, in a more positive, more hopeful manner, as he sings of the 'the beauty of decay' (his loss), the fact that things fall apart, but one can find something new, something positive from it -- as he puts it in his own words, "There's an optimism in that breaking down, that breaking up like a phoenix rising from the ashes."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Roland's bluntness is revived in its most seething form, in the most powerful song in Elemental, "Fish Out Of Water," which probably Roland must've written immediately after his split-up fight with Curt. The band has never been so clear, at the same time so charging while speaking out its state of mind.

Roland's state of mind, and the change in his outlook has brought out a new feel, a new sound in the band. TFF is no longer about beautiful singles and clean-cut amiability. The disturbance in Roland's mind has resulted in an experimental and unconventional sound in the band. This is a rock album of variegated soundscapes, which are as abstruse as are interesting. It begins with the rather spaced-out title song, followed by "Cold" and "Break It Down Again," back-to-back radio-wonders.

The songs that follow are what make this album a really experimental one. "Mr. Pessimist" is probably the most messed up and complicated TFF number ever. It is also one that shows off the band's unique musical craftsmanship. "Dog's A Best Friend's Dog" and "Fish Out Of Water" (along with "Tears Roll Down") are probably the band's only true 'rock' songs.

The album then takes a mindless trip into space (sometimes earthly, sometimes galactic), which seems incomprehensible as well as charming. The vague structure of "Gas Giants" or the simplistically vague nature of "Power" or the vague sweetness of "Brian Wilson Said," find TFF at an experimental peak of such caliber, that I wonder whether the band can ever repeat the same again.

Just when one feels that all is forgiven and forgotten with "Goodnight Song," disguised in all its heavenliness and well-mannered warmth, Roland sings "…and the sounds we are making are so uninspired…goodnight song played so wrong blame the crowd, they scream so loud so long," probably reflecting the older TFF that was in turmoil, that existed before the split, or possibly just mocking meaningless "popular" music. Let us just leave it to the crowd to decide.

Elemental is a different TFF record. More than the fact of it being the first one without Curt, it sees TFF take a different direction, take a different perspective on matters that hurt it most. There is a feeling of being let down and being betrayed, but the album retorts with sarcasm and positivism; it sees the constructiveness that comes hidden with destruction. It is all about change for the better, and this metamorphosis is inspiring.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2004 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mercury Records, and is used for informational purposes only.