Singer sheds Tears for Fears

Roland Orzabal is downsizing and starting over

When the rock duo Tears for Fears topped the charts with "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" in 1985, it seemed as if global domination beckoned.

But in 1991, after huge hits like "Shout," "Head Over Heels," and "The Seeds of Love," Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith acrimoniously parted ways, with Orzabal retaining the band's name.

Now, following two less commercially successful Tears for Fears albums in the '90s, Orzabal has mothballed the band's moniker in favor of his own name for the release of "Tomcats Screaming on the Outside" (Gold Circle Records). The new record reflects his new outlook on life and what constitutes success.

"There's a life outside of career," he explains on the phone from New York. "Tears for Fears was always very personal, but at the same time, it was always big business, a lot of pressure."

The new album comes half a decade after Orzabal completed what he says was Tears for Fears' best album, 1995's "Raoul and the Kings of Spain."

" 'Raoul' sold a respectable 700,000 copies without a hit single. It didn't take off," he says. "If you don't sell 8 million albums or 4 million albums again, everybody deems it a big failure," he says with a verbal shrug.

As a result, Orzabal found himself without a record contract for the first time since age 18. The result? "Three fantastic years; that feeling when you go on holiday," he says.

It was time spent playing a lot of tennis, a passion of his. ("I'm not a bad player," he playfully boasts. "Peter Gabriel has only taken one set off me in five years.")

And, in addition to producing an album by Icelandic pop singer Emiliana Torrini, Orzabal also found time and freedom to experiment with new sounds he was listening to - the drum 'n' bass and trip-hop sounds of Roni Size, Underworld, and The Chemical Bros. - in the luxury of his home recording studio.

"My problem is that I've got the work right there on my doorstep," he rues.

Also nagging him were fans on the Web. Before the Internet, Orzabal used to forget the responsibility of meeting the expectations of fans, he says.

"I kind of made this record for all those Internet junkies, for all those people who won't leave me alone," he says, laughing. "Just to shut them up, just to update them, just to add to my catalog. It's not a major statement. It's not a very personal album, because I wanted to get away from being very egocentric: the artist at the center of the world."

It's clear that, despite playing down the importance of the album, Orzabal is proud of "Tomcats Screaming on the Outside."

"When's the last time you even heard a bass solo?" he enthuses, referring to the bass guitar playing on the exuberant opening track, "Ticket to the World."

The album bears the hallmarks of the classic Tears for Fears sound but with the added textures of dance rhythms. Orzabal isn't overly concerned if the album fails to match Tears for Fears' heyday. After all, their day in the sun may come again - Orzabal and Smith are mending their relationship and writing "quite promising" songs together.

"We were bearing grudges for nine years, possibly longer. And it's not very good for your health or for your soul," he says. "I think we're very happy to heal this very ugly past situation. We would like to do an album and maybe call it 'Everybody loves a happy ending.' "

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