Released: 2004, Sanctuary
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Tesla is a band that never fully realized their potential. They were one of my favorite bands that came out of the 80s with their blend of metal, hard rock and blues. Their debut, 1986’s MECHANICAL RESONANCE, is still one of my all-time favorite CDs. Tesla never followed trends and eschewed the glam scene and endless clones that glutted the 80s metal scene. Unfortunately, commercial success brought on by the power ballad, 1988’s “Love Song” and their cover of “Signs” on the landmark album, FIVE MAN ACOUSTICAL JAM, set the band up with unreal expectations and when they failed to produce another hit, they were quickly forgotten. After the flannel-mongers took over music in the 90s, Tesla disbanded and INTO THE NOW is their first new music since 1994’s sorely underrated, BUST A NUT. The new CD picks up exactly where Tesla left off ten years ago and they don’t miss a beat. The stunning electric and acoustic guitar work of Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch is still there and Jeff Keith’s raspy blues-tinged voice sounds as good as ever. The rhythm section of Brian Wheat and Troy Luccketta pick up the bottom end and deliver a framework for what made Tesla a standout in the first place—excellent songs written and performed by proficient musicians.
The title track opens the CD and is one of the strongest cuts in Tesla’s career. Hannon’s solo is blistering and Keith’s voice is in top form. The lyrics are an excellent testament to what Tesla has done with this record, which is to jump in with both feet and see where the record takes them in a scene that they left ten years earlier. There is a curious rap-like scratch used at one point in the song that stands out like a sore thumb. Luckiliy, it doesn’t show up again. “Look @ Me” shows what a strong rhythm section the band has always had in Wheat and Luccketta. Wheat’s bass is thunderous here and Luccketta keeps up with some sharp fills. There is also a trippy back-tracked guitar solo that fits the track perfectly. “What A Shame,” is a bitter, mid-tempo track that explores a relationship gone wrong a la “We’re No Good Together” from MECHANICAL RESONANCE. Powerful stuff and Keith’s voice is pained enough to express the right emotions. “Heaven Nine Eleven” is Hannon’s plea to change the world in the face of the tragedy that the U.S. lived through at the hands of Al-Qaida. Even though the event is now 2 ½ years old, the track doesn’t feel dated, which has befallen others who have attempted similar tellings of the heartbreak. “Words Can’t Explain” reminds me so much of “Little Suzi” from MECHANICAL RESONANCE, with its acoustic guitar, and upbeat chorus. “Caught In A Dream,” the first single, is “classic” Tesla in the same vein as “The Way It Is” or “What You Give” from THE GREAT RADIO CONTROVERSY and PSYCHOTIC SUPPER. “Miles Away” opens with a searing guitar track and backed once again by Wheat and Luccketta’s rhythms, only to break into a mid-tempo verse and then back again to the heavy rock motions. “Got No Glory” is a heavy rocker that embodies everything Tesla is about with the lyric, “I’ll never be your alibi, or tell you what you want to hear/Knowing that I’d rather die, than have my word be insincere.” Tesla never pandered to radio or MTV and they never did what was expected of a hard rock band in the 80s and they sure as hell aren’t now, either.
INTO THE NOW is a record that defines just how strong this band is. This is a record that sounds fresh and modern but at the same time keeps intact what made Tesla one of the best bands of the 80s—integrity. Tesla is not trying to be “current” by writing radio singles. They aren’t stuck in the 80s rehashing old tunes in hopes their old fans will notice them again. Yes, the old fans will love this album, but a new generation of fans should also feel comfortable with INTO THE NOW. This is a timeless record that deserves to get airplay and a band that deserves attention and respect despite being off the scene for a decade. INTO THE NOW is nothing less than perfect. This could be album of the year.
KILLER KUTS: “Into The Now,” “Look @ Me,” “What A Shame,” “Caught In A Dream,” “Miles Away,” “Got No Glory”