Roland Orzabal's first venture as a solo Tear for Fears is a relatively stripped down affair, but only by their gluttonous standards. With the intro to "Elemental" we could be heading to a return of the elegantly angular synth pop of "The Hurting", but it soon puffs up into stadium-sized soft rock. Orzabal does one thing very well here - plain old rock tunes, with big choruses and riffs, fattened with a shiny production. Single "Break It Down Again" also recalls the indulgences in negativity of their debut album, but updated with a grown-up reflectiveness. It's one of the better songs here. Apart from the jazz break on "Mr. Pessimist", there's little of the musical decadence that went into "Seeds of Love".
I wouldn't call it assured songwriting though, as the inspiration is lacking on occasion. "Cold" is a good idea for a song, a note from a fan frustrated by attempts to meet Orzabal: "how can someone who writes music so warm be so cold". But he fails to build on the idea, with strained lyrics like "Listen to my old friend Nockles, hope that it would warm the cockles". The most distinctive piece is "Brian Wilson Said". A well-intentioned tribute to the Beach Boys' main man, this mixes pastiche with instrumental prettiness. The instrumental middle section might ramble but ends in a lush climax.
September 18, 2004