Roland Orzabal – Tomcats Screaming Outside

2001 (Eagle Records Albums)

1: Ticket To The World (5:48)
2: Low Life (4:36)
3: Hypnoculture (3:13)
4: Bullets For Brains (4:08)
5: For The Love Of Cain (4:06)
6: Under Ether (5:51)
7: Day By Day By Day By Day By Day (4:35)
8: Dandelion (3:03)
9: Hey Andy! (4:25)
10: Kill Love (5:40)
11: Snowdrop (4:23)
12: Maybe Our Days Are Numbered (4:47)

When Curt Smith left British new wave/pop duo Tears For Fears in 1991, his musical other half Roland Orzabal made two more excellent albums under this name, “Elemental” (1993) and “Raoul And The Kings Of Spain” (1995). Actually, these are disguised solo albums. After a few years of silence, Orzabal finally goes for a real one. In 2001 “Tomcats Screaming Outside” discussed here is released under his own name. It’s a great album with Nick D’Virgilio on drums. Need I say more? He’s the right man in the right place.

Often melody lines, harmonies, themes or half-babbled pieces of text are the incitement for a composition. On “Tomcats Screaming Outside” these are precisely rhythmic structures. Hey Nick. You clearly hear him. This album is packed with driving basses, pulsating keyboards, reverberating guitars and of course inventive drumming, all of which is reflected in a dark 80s sound that is artfully interwoven with elements of ambient and trip-hop. On top of that, Orzabal rages royally with his imposing voice.

On the album Orzabal once again collaborates with keyboardist / guitarist Alan Griffiths, the man who also joined him on the aforementioned Tears For Fears albums. It’s a good team, Orzabal and Griffiths. Not only as performing musicians, but also as composer and producer they reinforce each other. I dare to proclaim that this album is more enjoyable to me than most of Tears For Fears albums and that’s from the mouth of a big fan of the band from Bath.

What does this cleverly put together and heavily underrated album have to offer in terms of content? Well, we can enjoy twelve songs, although it must be said that the somewhat busy opener Ticket To The World is not so representative of the other material. Fortunately, it shows good taste when you hear how bassist David Sutton manages to find his place in the whole as his band mates are quite present, so to speak.

Although “Tomcats Screaming Outside” gets off to a good start with this  rather nice song, the album really comes to life with the Simple Minds-like guitar in the intro of Low Life. The pulsating beat of the song is so infectious that I can’t understand why the single did so little at the time. Now you just have to let me talk because I always miss the mark in that regard. The subsequent Hypnoculture is an excellent continuation with African chants, a lot of driving bass playing and a bit of vocals from Orzabal. In general you can be somewhat critical of his vocals as he sounds grand and theatrical. However, I consider myself lucky with his larger than life way of singing.

From that moment on there is no stopping the album. Excellent and great songs alternate almost constantly. Take Bullets For Brains and For The Love Of Cain, a song that has a hugely catchy vocal line and is propelled by an infectious rhythm. There are more such combinations. The blistering Under Ether is a dark song full of eastern expression in a somewhat alienating atmosphere. Day By Day By Day By Day By Day, on the other hand, is a much clearer story, this is a dragging ballad and the title leaves nothing to be desired in terms of clarity. Those long shots of Orzabal are impressively beautiful.

A remarkable song is Dandelion where a somewhat heavy riff forms the backdrop. Another song that stands out is Kill Love simply because it stands out. The album closes with the calm Maybe Our Days Are Numbered in which the vocals have something secretive. It is a wonderful conclusion to an album that is full of expressiveness.

This “Tomcats Screaming Outside” sounds incredibly unleashing. It could never have appeared under the moniker of Tears For Fears and that’s why we can be happy that this tomcat has taken the opportunity to scream outside.

Roland Orzabal: guitar, keyboards, vocals, programming
Alan Griffiths: guitar, keyboards, programming
David Sutton: bass
Nick D’Virgilio: drums

© Dick van der Heijde 2022