Review Summary: What's the matter with your life? Did someone come along and stab your wife?!
After their massive Songs from the Big Chair tour, Curt Smith quit the band and Tears for Fears became a one-man show. Left to his own devices, Roland Orzabal created the album Elemental, a decent album but mediocre compared to the band’s standards. A few years later, Roland released the album Raoul and the Kings of Spain. The album polarized fans and critics alike and became a commercial failure.
Now, the previous album Elemental was a big step backwards, a step in the wrong direction (though it is a decent record, it pales horribly in comparison to the other albums released before it). But this time around, this album is a nice big step in the right direction. In fact, the album is almost as good as their first three albums-The Hurting, Songs from the Big Chair, and Sowing the Seeds of Love; respectively.
The album is a barrage of sound that recreates elements of all of their previous albums: ranging from the ambitious prog rock/hard rock and symphonic arrangements that pervaded The Seeds of Love, the mainstream alternative-rock vibes of Elemental, and the post-rock influences and new-wave grooves pervaded in The Hurting and Songs from the Big Chair. However, it is more often than not that the album sounds more like a stripped-down, more mainstream version of The Seeds of Love, in fact Oleta Adams makes a cameo on the second-to-last song on the album, “Me and My Big Ideas” singing a duet with old Roland.
Lyrically, the album is based around Roland’s Spanish heritage. Although Roland claims the record is not a concept album, he admits that there is a common theme of the values of family.
The title track, kick starts the record with it’s sprawling punk rock groove going from quiet verses and segue back into its loud chorus. Roland’s vocals are top notch with him wailing “Raoul and the King of Spain” in a fierce falsetto showcasing that his vocals are still a force to be reckoned with. Supposedly, the title derives from the fact that Roland was originally named Raoul.
Songs like “Falling Down” follows similar dynamics as the title track, although quieter in comparison.
“Los Reyes Católicos” and its reprise are dreamy interludes with lyrics dealing with the Spaniard’s rule in Christianity and the Church (the title literally translates from Spanish to English: “The Catholic Kings”).
“Humdrum and Humble” sounds like a more rock oriented version of “Sowing the Seeds of Love” with its political lyrics about war and trumpets that sound like something from The Beatles album Magical Mystery Tour.
“Sorry” and “Don’t Drink the Water” are some of TFF’s most aggressive tracks to date. “Sorry” is a hilarious, satirical song about a man’s infidelity with nice heavy guitars thrown into the mix. “Don’t Drink the Water” on the other hand takes a more progressive approach; starting off with a car’s tire screeching and an out of place piano, it may unsettle the listener when the distorted guitars break out with Roland singing cryptic lyrics that may be a stab at religion.
However, the album is, of course, without its flaws. “God’s Mistake,” sounds like a half-assed copy and paste of “Everybody wants to Rule the World” and is the clear low point of the album. Ballads like “Secrets” and “I Choose You” may grow a bit boring depending on your mood. However, “Me and My Big Ideas” is one of Tears For Fears’ best ballads with a breathtaking baroque pop-esque background and Oleta Adams’ soulful vocals.
As a whole, Raoul and the Kings of Spain is a respectable effort from the remaining TFF member, Roland Orzabal that almost lives up to their first three albums as well as an admirable effort that TFF fans can appreciate as a comeback from the deviation in their last album.
Raoul and the Kings of Spain~5/5
Sketches of Pain~2.7/5
Los Reyes Católicos~N/A (Interlude)
Humdrum and Humble~3.5/5
I Choose You~⅘
Don’t Drink the Water~5/5
Me and My Big Ideas~4.9/5
Los Reyes Católicos~4.5/5
Rating outside of TFF’s standards: 4.8
Rating within TFF’s standards: 3.9
Overall rating: 4.35
PS; unlike my previous reviews, this one is serious and constructive criticism is much appreciated (also when I first submitted this review, it skipped to a page where I had to sign in even though I already signed in and then I had to start from square 1 again and tried to rewrite this review as best as I could while sort of rushing due to massive frustration so don’t hate please. And yes, I admit that this review, in general isn’t very good). Also, if I feel up to it, I may attempt to do a review of Elemental.