Tesla - Shock

Tesla Shock cover
Tesla Electric Company Recordings
Tesla was one of the coolest bands that came out of the 80s as they managed to combine the big 80s hard rock sound with a more rootsy attitude and rough and ready sound and managed to differentiate them from most of the hair metal (product) bands that ultimately imploded just as soon as the new decade was in. They did take a short hiatus in the 90s as the rock scene pretty much dead but reunited as the new millennium came about, releasing albums infrequently (if one discards the many live and cover efforts) but touring religiously. A great live band, they seem to have gone with producing their first album in a while, as simplicity only came out in 2014 with Phil Collen of Def Leppard fame as producer. This leads to a slight refinement of the band’s sound, a more prominent use of harmonies and an overall luster, that seems to take away a little of Tesla’s, rural Americana charm that it replaces with its own early Leppardisms in a way that might be hard to ignore, but ultimately seems to work. A lot of the glue that make it all work is Jeff Keith’s badass, edgy vocals that have the necessary grit, even when harmonies are all around to cut through, with a streetwise charm.
“You Won’t Take Me Alive” has the typical Tesla vibe, but with a bit of Exrteme’s funky attitude and obviously way too many backing vocals and satin-ized guitar tones, glossing it over…
Still production that sounds this good is not “damage” a song... and although this analogy might be gross… Collen’s production is the equivalent of managing the hair in your nether regions. The man-scaping doesn’t really change the contents of one’s pants, just the presentation. In a similar way Tesla is still the band you know and love, only with a “bigger” production that happens to be a tiny winy bit wimpier than  before, it’s not a cardinal sin… especially, with songs like the awesome “Taste Like”... so what if it sounds a bit like Leppard - (production wise?!). You’ll notice that it sounds also a bit like AC/DC and who’s going to complain about that (didn’t think so!)?
“We Can Rule the World” is a big ballad that draws from a lot of influences, contemporary Aerosmith, to The Eagles and The Beatles alike. And you know that Tesla has written some beautiful ballads in the past and even released entire acoustic album renditions… they know what they’re doing and they deliver, even if this is not them at their most indicative.
The title track sounds like solo Eric Martin trying to go contemporary, but during the chorus JK launches into his usual vocal tone… in a song that sounds like what Buckcherry might have sounded if they didn’t have crappy “singer”. It’s a love it or hate it moment and I’m not particularly enamored with it, but it’s not a deal breaker.
Thankfully, things go back to “normal” m.o., with “Love is a Fire”, the second ballad of the album and one that’s closer to the band’s blueprint. Mostly electric, but with an acoustic touch that works great and a chorus that’s just golden.
“California Summer Song” lightens up the move, all summery and breezy, a little hickey and quirky not out of character for Tesla, but sounds more like something geared towards redneck Kid Rock and country fans. This is American through and through and it will resonate more with Americans, I s’ppose?
“Forever Loving You” is the third ballad of the album and it’s just a little too basic, all soft guitars and strings… without a real climax in sight, which is a little off-putting. On the other hand, it’s lovely to hear what Jeff Keith can do when he’s not screamin his head off… and it’s soothing quality can be savored in times when you want to relax.
“The Mission” might start slowly and quiet, but it brings back all those qualities that made Tesla great, in the 80s. It might be a little darker and more brooding than usual, but as soon as the solo was finished I was ready to shout out… Mission accomplished!
“Tied to the Tracks” is even closer to the 80s sound of the band, with the guitars really coming to the fore straight away. It’s driving groovy rhythm is sure to make it a live crowd-pleaser.
“Afterlife” chills out things considerably, but doesn’t douse the flame as it’s Aerosmith like charm, is strong...
“I Want Everything” opens with a suspended guitar that as soon as it resolves kickstarts a massive track that feels like an amalgam of Sweet, Cheap Trick and Def Lep, a great vocal driven pop/rock tune that JK simply makes sound far cooler than it should be allowed to be, with his bravado and southern charm.
The album comes to a close with “Comfort Zone”, which sounds suspiciously like Def Tesla… but it’s not a bad song, after all.
Y’know, accusations of wanting to copy Leppard’s style of production aside, which I don’t give much of a damn about…“Shock” sounds like a great collection of songs, expertly produced and still inclusive of all the ingredients that made this band so damn likable. Streetwise charm, lyricism, chops, great ballads, gutsy, gusto filled vocals. It’s all here. Pull the wool from your eyes and from over your ears and enjoy this jolt of excellent rock ‘n roll!