The nuts-and-bolts rock and roll of chart-toppers like Live and Hootie & the Blowfish seems to be the style of the times. Even Tears for Fears's Roland Orzabal has downsized his trademark pomp and highbrow pre-tension. Rather than clutter Raoul and the Kings of Spain with his usual jazzman poses, Sgt. Pepper wannabe compositions and impressionistic doodling, Orzabal, now TFF's only core member, and his current studio musicians play it straight and, at times, surprisingly rough.
The rougher the better. Slow burners like "Falling Down" and "Me and My Big Ideas," which features singer Oleta Adams, may set off sparks, but when Tears for Fears gets tough, Raoul really gets going. The title song opens with muscular guitar chords and then barely pauses for air, while "Don't Drink the Water" swells, ripples and flexes its buff stuff. But for all Orzabal's meat-and-potatoes revisionism, he occasionally slips into his old erudite tendencies. (Can't imagine middle-class, middle-American heroes like Blues Traveler cooking up such an arcane, literary-sounding album title.) Raoul simply makes Orzabal's vision more accessible. (Mercury)