Raoul And The Kings Of Spain

Tears For Fears

Epic, 1995


REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Roland Orzabal took Tears For Fears to more experimental heights after the split with Curt Smith with a sound heading towards that of a curious “adult contemporary” rock band than that of an ‘80s synth-pop alumni. Though Elemental in its psychedelically laden fashion was a sure, if not an appreciable step towards a rock record, Raoul And The Kings Of Spain is the first actual rock album by TFF.

TFF has never been so raw and aggressive ever before. Raoul screams with guitars of all sorts, all over. Never before in a TFF album have guitars had so many interesting personas and embodiments. They take chaotic forms on the disorderly “Don’t Drink The Water” and on the seemingly crude “Sorry,” or are much milder and sophisticated on the title track and on “God’s Mistake.” Meanwhile, the instrumentation is funky and rhythmic on “Humdrum And Humble,” dreamy and languid on “Secrets,” and addictively flamenco-styled on “Sketches Of Pain.” my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Raoul is also TFF’s most direct work to date. The songs on this record are much simpler than any those on any of the band’s previous works. Rather than being a short album (in terms of number of songs) of long dramatized numbers, Raoul has comparatively more number of songs, each straightforward and relatively simpler in nature; just compare the simple duet with Oletta Adams on Raoul (“Me And My Big Ideas”) versus an elaborate -- and almost painstaking -- one on The Seeds Of Love (“Woman In Chains”).

Moreover, all the hard to understand ballads of the earlier TFF records are replaced by less florid ones, plain musically, as they are lyrically: “We could heal this blindness with some human kindness / I know secrets kill you / But my love can fill you…” on “Secrets” is sung against a simple tune, which seems much too idyllic for this band.

TFF has always tried to make concept albums, with most of its work in a state of agitation and anger that exists below the skin. This album, weakly held together by the concept of Orzabal’s Spanish ancestry, has hardly the underlying turmoil of Elemental, which is centered around the opting-out of Curt Smith from the band and the ensuing court battle over the name of the band; still, Raoul’s hard sound has the same edge carried forward from Elemental. Also, Raoul seems more spontaneous and less highfalutin (even compared to the post-breakup Elemental), with all the energy concentrated on being as casual as possible. 

This disc is, by far, the hardest TFF record. The sound is bare compared to TFF standards. Hardly holding out as a concept record, this album is more about individual songs than the album itself, while the music is louder and more stripped-down. Though this change in style seems drastic, it is well worth it and serves to show another dimension of Orzabal’s immense talent.

Rating: B+

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