This Tears for Fears record, ‘Elemental’, released in 1993, is really more of a Roland Orzabal solo record than anything else. Curt Smith had left to pursue other things and so Orzabal was left to take and maintain the TFF mantle all by himself. This would have been a mighty task in 1993, due to Smith’s leaving and the inevitable changing of the musical climate that was taking place. Tears for Fears were pretty much old news in ’93 and it goes without saying that Orzabal was facing an uphill battle to keep the band’s name and legacy alive, but there’s no denying the capabilities of Orzabal’s creative engine.
The opening track, the title track, sets off the record in a moody fashion; it’s actually quite reminiscent of many of the sounds heard on TFF’s masterpiece ‘The Hurting’. Nevertheless, as the record carries on, it becomes clear that Orzabal isn’t afraid to inject a more typically ’90s alternative rock sound into the mix. This is evidenced in both of the following tracks, “Cold” and “Break It Down Again”, two albeit great tracks. After this is where the record begins to slip up a little bit. Scattered throughout what remains of the record is a varying quality of material. There are interesting moments, like “Dog’s a Best Friend’s Dog”, which showcases TFF’s embrace of tough alternative rock better than any other track on the record, and songs like “Fish Out of Water” and “Power” are far from bad songs. It just becomes apparent that this is a prime example of a record where a handful of tracks heavily outweigh the others. With that said, one of TFF’s all-time greatest tracks closes the record. That track is “Goodnight Song” and there has hardly ever been a better song written about the end of a chapter of life. The acceptance that time is moving on and that there is little you can do about the outcome; a candid statement on the state of TFF at that moment?
So, does Orzabal succeed in maintaining the legacy of the band? The answer is ‘yes’. Does he make a flawless record this time around? No, he doesn’t. Does he make a record that’s good enough to bear the band’s name? Yes, he does. There’s no denying that this record has some great material on it. Orzabal handles the mantle of the band with no missteps and clearly isn’t afraid to drive the band’s path into a direction that is simply his own. It’s obvious that he isn’t outside of his comfort zone on this record. What’s more, Orzabal proved that he was fully capable of playing to a younger audience. The rise of Oasis would soon set in a brand new set of rules for rock bands to play by in the ’90s and this record sits alongside this soon-to-be reality quite effortlessly. One does wonder how the record might have been different had Smith decided to stick around, though. Would it have been better? Would it have been, perhaps, too tired? Was his leaving necessary? Nevertheless, Orzabal does a fine job on his own here, even if the record isn’t quite up to the standards of earlier TFF records.