on June 6, 2001
If I could only have one TFF c.d in my collection it would be this one. Not as simplistic as "Songs from the Big Chair" yet no as overproduced as "Sowing The Seeds" it is a joy to listen to from start to finish (o.k., with maybe the expection of "Gas Giants"). Her is the breakdown:
Elemental- Brooding synthesized rock number 9 out of 10
Cold- Pop with a rock edge-think harder edged songs of Crowded House or Squeeze- 10 out of 10
Break It Down Again- Lightweight pop- popular single- 8 out of 10.
Mr. Pessimist- Brooding atmospheric creative song 8 out of 10
Dog's a Best Friend's Dog- Flat out rocker with fantastic guitar work and alternating snarling and soaring vocals 10 of 10.
Fish Out Of Water- Mid Tempo rock number, powerful attack on former Tear Curt Smith 9 out of 10
Gas Giant- Slow, lethargic, unintersting instrumental 2 out of 10
Power- Title says it all 10 out of 10
Brian Wilson Said- segues from Beach Boys to Cocktail Jazz 7 out of 10
Goodnight Song- another porpular cut played on radio a lot 6 out of 10
on December 17, 2000
Like many in my generation (born in '69), I was first captivated by TFF's "Songs From the Big Chair" when I was in high school. I listened over and over to that record and to "The Hurting" as I dwelled on my own unhappy childhood. I eagerly awaited "The Seeds of Love" release when in college and was mostly happy with that effort. TFF's growth musically seemed to parallel my personal growth as I approached adulthood.
The first time I put on "Elemental," I was blown away! I already knew Orzabal was a potent lyricist. It was now clear to me that he was a true musical genius as well. It also seemed obvious that Curt Smith had been holding him back considerably on the "Seeds" album. Sadly, the childhood friends had to part ways in order for Orzabal to produce this near-masterpiece.
While the advent of the C.D. as a music format has given us fantastic audio clarity, it has changed the way I and, I presume, most others listen to music. I rarely listen to an entire album anymore; rather I use the skip button or program features to play my favorite tracks. "Elemental" is one of the few exceptions, an album that demands to be played start to finish everytime. While "Break it Down..." holds its own as a single, it is primarily a hook tossed out to lure one into the album as a whole. It also serves as a transition piece for those of us who liked previous TFF material.
Sonicly, this album is all ear candy. It is a slickly produced modern symphony of guitars, keyboards, and drums, all wraped in Rolands alternately delicate and soaring vocals. He backs himself vocally on most tracks to great effect; Curt Smith is never missed. Many tracks seguay (sp?) musically into the next, creating the the sense of a journey more than a group of songs. Orzabal's usual high level of poetry is present in the lyrics as well. The obviously painful split with Smith serves as inspiration on several tracks, as others here have pointed out. He also gives insight into his strugle to reconcile the public's perception of him and his perception of himself, as he does in this piece from "Cold,"
-"She saw me on the television underneath the sun. [obvious reference to "The Seeds of Love"] Thought I was warm like a mother, lover, brother. Brothter she was wrong.... Seems she thought of me as some mystic, fatalistic, mystical guru. Me, I haven't got a clue."
The journey begins with the title track, opening with a drumbeat reminicent of "The Hurting" which melts into the background behind Orzabal fairly shouting "Welcome to the real world!" Its as if he is telling us that "Everbody Wants to Rule the World" is an ideal that doesn't fit with the reality of adulthood. The journey continues through several songs, alternating pace, with nary a weak link save for maybe "Dog's a Best Friend's Dog." Momemtum builds to the fabulous climactic eighth track, "Power." Orzabal washes the listener with wave after wave of his own sonic, vocal, and lyrical power, building a steady tension. Without warning, he shifts to the beautiful and etheral "Brian Wilson Said." Within three minutes, he has melted away the tension and set us back down to earth. He then sends us home with the final track, "Good Night Song." To my ear, Roland has never sounded so good as he does here. Ironicly, the lyrics proclaim:
-"My voice is aching; I'm tounge tied; the sounds we are making are so uninspired."
This song seems to be not just a fairwell to the listener, but the the TFF of the past as well. Luckily, my fear that it might signal the end of Orzabal's recording career was wrong. He went on to record again. If you are looking for more "Shout" and "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," you won't find it here. If you like "The Seeds of Love," however, you will probably love this ablum. "Elemental" was a real turning point for Roland Orzabal. On previous albums, he had confronted his past ("Big Chair" and the "Hurting"), and confronted social issues while dabling in sonic atistry ("Seeds"). On "Elememtal," he honed that artistry while confronting the immediate conflicts of his then current life, apparently finally willing to let go of his past. Sadly, it was not much of a comercial success; "Elemental" was lost in the sea of the prevailing "grunge" movement of the time. However it has aged well. Seven years on, it still sounds great without sounding dated. It is a soothing soul clensing experience for me, and vindication of my loyalty to TFF through the 1980s and early 90s.
on April 20, 2000
The state of Tears for fears was shaky in 1992. In this year, Curt Smith, founding memeber with Roland Ozabal, left the group. It was deicded that Roland would continue on "solo" keeping the TFF name, and curt went off and did a solo album, then formed his own band, Mayfield. I personally didn't grow up on TFF. I mean, I was only 2 years old when The Hurting came out. I of course though rememeber Everybody Wants to.. and shout. I first bought their greatest hits album, and fell in love with TFF. I then noticed that they had one more top 40 hit after curt left, break it down again. I downloaded the MP3, and WAS IN LOVE! I therefore decided to get the album. I wasn't expecting much, but I was truly blown away. I honestly do not consider this TFF. It just seems to me that stylistically this album is different from all their (his) previous. My favorite cuts on this album are: Cold, Break It Down Again, Dog's a Best friend's dog, and Power. The only song I skip over is gas giants (not one for instrumentals). Some of the songs have instrumental breaks that do seem to meander too long (Mr. Pescimist, Brian Wilson Said), but it's not that bad. Overall, this is generally a great CD, and I would suggest to anyone to go and pick it up. And, just in case you are curious....their follow-up (RATKOS) IS a great album as well, so if you like this one, go out and get the other one, I swear, you wont be dissapointed! Have a good day!
on February 17, 2000
Curt Smith is gone-But Roland Orzabal will keep on running against the wind as his creative force continues to improve .Tears for Fears has Bridged the Brit pop Void That separate artists like Sade,Paul young From others like Simple minds,Duran Duran new order-thus creating an almost unique sythesis of fancy and form ,Combining Sublime pop Orquestration With Genuine insigt,Since Curt called quits after 1991 Seeds of love tour,Orzabal is left to fend off existential angst of his own,which he does with amazing grace and integrity on tracks like "Cold","power" and "break it down again" are replet with melodic free falls,armonized and overlapped vocals,Layered keyboards and guitar shudders.Shamelesly lifting from The Beatles and Beach Boys,Orzabal mold his borrowings to fit the mood-Finnally streching reverence to the extreme with the sad but smile-inspired embrace of "Brian Wilson Said"-(whe're not talking about the bare naked ladies here)-Yet Orzabal does't seem to be that thrilled with his musical brother Smith-allutions to the post split abound,with "Fish out of water" echoing spiteful feelings as John Lennon's anti McCartneyrant "With all your cigarretes and fancy cars/you ain't a clue who or what you are,"-The Mellow Gracious "Good Night Song" seems a more reflective account of anguish with Orzabal expresing abandonment and confusion,cushioning the tonal feel with sobbing synth riffs.Sad feelings aside,Elemental Flashes the same sort of sheen ,wordplay and sound wash that flourised in the '80s and still fights for it's place on today's modern rock charts. Orzabal couldn't have placed Elemental at a better time as well his new soon to arrive album "Ticket to the World",this will probably top the charts as we hope some day Roland will bring his son Raoul to follow his musical steps and to prove that everything old is new again.
on July 15, 1999
This recording really moves me in several directions. I'm 29 and remember Tears for Fears back in 83-84. To this day 'Everbody wants to rule the world' still takes me back to those great teen-age REAL MTV days in America. As I grew up, so did Roland's music. I really believe he is one of the most fantastic artists of this time. I rate him right up there with Bono and Robert Smith. Elemental explores the vaccum left over from 'Seeds of love.' Gone was his childhood friend and partner Curt Smith. This was a big thing for Roland. Not musically, but emotionally. There is no Tears for Fears without Roland. 'Fish out of water' tells us what he thought Curt. 'Goodnight song' as melancholy as it is, has that optimistic feel to it-"take the best of me and let the rest let go... should've stayed 'round to break the ice, thought about it once or twice'... I've always enjoyed their music. As I grew up, I enjoyed Roland's shear music, writing, and production genius!!!
on December 2, 1999
This is the first album done since Roland Orzabal's break-up with Curt Smith, however retaining the Tears for Fears name and Roland being the sole member of the band. After listening to this wonderful album, I see really who the driving force behind Tears for Fears really is and that there was no need to keep Curt Smith, eventhough he held his own very well during his years with Roland. Roland Orzabal proves in this album who the real leader of this band was all these years. I particularly liked the following songs: Cold, Fish out of water, and Goodnight song, perhaps some of the best songs made in 1993. The hit song, Break it down again is cool, but not as good as those others mentioned and with respect to the rest of the songs they are quite good. Hey I was about to give five stars, but Mr Pessimist and Dog's a Best Friend's Dog reforced me to go down a notch. Still an enthusiasic thumbs up here.
on September 8, 1999
While it's not a concept album as such, ELEMENTAL does seem to flow musically. Still, it sounds like an unfinished album. "Gas Giants," "Power", and "Brian Wilson Said" sort of just meander together with no apparent point-- they would have been best left separate. Sometimes, meandering works, though. "Mr. Pessimist," even though it has several different sections, darkly mutters thru the best six minutes on the album. When he's focused, Roland nails songs like the title track, "Cold," "Dog's A Best Friend's Dog," and "fish." More of that, and a little more cohesiveness, would have made this the "Sgt. Pepper" that TFF tried for (and had already almost achieved on SEEDS OF LOVE, anyway). Nevertheless, like all TFF, this is an album well worth owning and still better than 99 percent of what's on the radio today.
on April 19, 2002
I admit that I was quite biased against TFF when this LP was first released, I wanted them to be the same tuneful yet brooding hitmakers they'd been in the 80's. How silly of me! For along time I thought Roland Orzabal and his cohorts couldn't possibly produce anything nearly as brilliant as "The Seeds Of Love", but the joke is on me. This terrific collection of songs is one of their strongest releases ever and a permanent part of my collection. The only real hit here is also the best song, the walloping, epic sweep of "Break It Down Again". This towering track is reason alone to buy this album, for it will lead to the melodic splendor of "Cold", the gorgeous, ambient title track and the lyrical whimsy and lighthearted touch of "Brian Wilson Said" (nice semi-tribute). A very rewarding album that grows on you with repeated listening.
on July 1, 2004
Tears for Fears became a favorite of mine right from the start as they were much more than a cut above many of their synthesizer-powered contemporaries during the mid 1980s. Their angst-driven "The Hurting" was a classic and cohesive debut that signaled that these guys had a lot to say. "Songs from the Big Chair" was a more was a hit-filled production that brought soul into the equation and brought them massive commercial success all over the world. The greatest thing about that release is that it succeeded without relying on any particular pop formula. Any release that includes the anthemic "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and the jazzy "I Believe," just to name a couple, shows that these guys were going to be much more than a passing trend. Although it took many aborted tries, the duo's third release "The Seeds of Love" was another smash and introduced the world to Oleta Adams and highlighted the duo's softer side. After again struggling to produce their fourth album, Curt Smith wound up leaving the group. Roland Orzabal retained the rights to the duo's name and released "Elemental" as a Tears for Fears product.
Many critics and some fans did not like "Elemental" (although thankfully not most Amazoners), but although it sold well, many found it to be less compelling their any of their first three releases. I only agree to a degree, as "Elemental" may not a 5-star release (the rating that I give to Tear for Fear's first three releases), it easily earns 4 stars on the strength of the first 4 songs (the powerful and addictive "Elemental," the melodic and catchy "Cold," "Break It Down Again" which may be THE song that captures the essence of their first three releases, and the jazzy "Mr. Pessimist"). I love "Gas Giants" and all the other songs, with the possible exception of "Power."
In a nutshell, if you are a fan of Tears for Fears, your collection should not overlook this release. If you are not a hardcore fan, you might be better off going for one of their greatest hits compilations as they flow quite well. So 4 starts it is and be on the lookout for "Everybody Loves a Happy Ending," as it represents Curt's return to the band, but as is always the case with this group something gets in their way of getting their music out there. It appears that the issue is now label-related as Arista (the duo's new US label) changed regimes before the CD was scheduled to come out in mid 2004 and it seems like everything in the pipeline is being questioned by the new regime. Not even the UK version has a release date, but until them enjoy all off Tear for Fears' music, including the underrated "Elemental."
on March 27, 2004
Tears for Fears were one of the rare pop groups whose music survived the 80's image and still sounds great today. After the classic "Seeds of Love", the duo broke up. Roland Orzabel recorded this follow up without Curt Smith. While the music is missing some of the vocal balance of their previous work, this CD contains one of their best songs: "Break It Down Again". Part of the song lyrics below show the introspection the band is famous for:
"It's in the way you're always hiding from the light, See for yourself you have been sitting on a time bomb, No revolution maybe someone somewhere else, Could show you something new about you and your inner song - And all the love and all the love in the world, Won't stop the rain from falling, Waste seeping underground - I want to break it down....Break it down again"
The rest of the CD has some great moments as well, and typical of the band, the lyrics and songwriting is well above the meaningless chatter of most pop songs.
The title track "Elemental" , and the driving "Dog's a Best Friends Dog" are on par with their previous work, while the smooth and moody "Gas Giants" sounds like an updated "Working Hour" intro. Of particular note is "Fish Out of Water" an obvious slam on his departed band mate.
While the music always takes me back to Virginia, and my grad school days, it still sounds up to date as well. A great addition to your collection.