The teeth are back .
But the techno-pop programming isn't. Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, the ivory-flashing English duo that managed to sell 4 million Stateside copies of its second album, is back four long years later with an ambitious third effort that eschews rampant technology for "organic" band playing. There's even a credit to their new American female vocalist and pianist, Oleta Adams, "for authenticating our soul." Uh-oh!
Most of what's strongest is in the opening three songs, the first two of which--the feminist anthem "Woman in Chains," the gospel stomp "Badman's Song"--are tasty duets with Adams, discovered crooning in a Holiday Inn piano lounge during TFF's last U.S. tour. Come the hooks of the third number, the anti-Thatcher, pro-"Sgt. Pepper" single "Sowing the Seeds of Love," and even a skeptic might primal-scream in praise of the lads' exponential growth and scope.
The remaining five tracks aren't too great a letdown, but make any hollering seem a tad premature. Too many build to uncharacteristically frenzied rock 'n' roll climaxes, which only serves to point out how underdeveloped and overwrought some of the lyrics--about whiteness in the Third World, love underneath the Bomb, fame and death, etc.--really are. Give these Johnny Appleseeds an A for effort and a B for achievement, but they have yet to successfully spring a full-grown evergreen.