Mechanical Resonance


Geffen Records, 1986

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It is rare when I am inspired to buy an album after hearing a song or seeing a video one time. But back in 1986, this was the case the first time I ever heard the song "Modern Day Cowboy" by Tesla. Actually, I might have seen the video twice, then I never saw it again - but I knew that I wanted to hear what else this band had to offer. Within a matter of days and a week's blown allowance, I walked out of Sound Warehouse with my copy of their debut release Mechanical Resonance.

In recent years, I have forgotten about this album, possibly because I've got so many other groups that I'm trying to fit into my daily listening schedule... and possibly because I found myself disappointed with their follow-up releases. Whatever the case, I finally dug out my battered copy of Mechanical Resonance to see if the album still lived up to the hype I experienced as a 15-year-old.

The first thing that strikes me about Tesla is that they sounded very much like a poor man's Def Leppard. With vocalist Jeff Keith doing his best Joe Elliott impersonation, the two-guitar attack of Tommy Skeoch and Frank Hannon trading licks back and forth, and the solid rhythmic backbone of bassist Brian Wheat and drummer Troy Luccketta, the band seemed to take the sound that other bands had put forth and put their own stamp of approval on it.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As for whether Mechanical Resonance has held up to the passage of time... well, I don't quite know. I know that the excitement I used to feel when I listened to this album is nowhere near what it used to be, but the album does not disappoint me in the least.

Let's start with the easiest facets to examine. The two singles off this album, "Modern Day Cowboy" and "Little Suzi," are still great tracks, though I've never been able to understand the one chord in the bridge of "Modern Day Cowboy" that fails to resolve itself. It sticks out like Pat Robertson at a Slayer concert. Still, you have to admire the twin guitar work of Hannon and Skeoch, especially on "Modern Day Cowboy". (As for "Little Suzi," I was going to say that this was the first solo I had ever learned note for note, but when I heard it again for this review, I realized I wasn't even close in certain areas. Another dream flushed down the crapper.)

A few other tracks on Mechanical Resonance achieved some attention in their time. "Changes" seems to be one of the underground favorite tracks - then again, seeing the "best of" compilation was called Time's Makin' Changes, maybe it wasn't so hidden as I've thought. "Cumin' Atcha Live" is a free-for-all party here, though it was slowed down to a country boogie on Five Man Acoustical Jam... and I do prefer the original version.

While some of the other tracks on Mechanical Resonance are quite formulatic, they still have some level of spontaneity that makes them worthwhile even today. The album's opener "EZ Come EZ Go" and "Rock Me To The Top" both fall under this category - and while I was fully prepared to rip "Rock Me To The Top" after hearing its Def Leppard-like opener for the first time in a good 10 years, I soon remembered how much I liked this track. One just can't help it.

There are a few turkeys on this album, though. "We're No Good Together" is a painful attempt at a ballad that switches gears in an attempt to win both the rock and the ballad fans over in one shot. "Love Me" and "Cover Queen" are fair to middling tracks, but when compared to the killer tracks, they just don't hold up.

I guess this brings me full circle to my original thought: Is Mechanical Resonance still worth checking out today? After much thought (and the better part of a two-liter of Coca-Cola), the answer is "yes". Tesla did build on the musical ideas that were shaping hard rock in the mid-'80s, but they were able to throw enough California sensibility (with even a slight touch of rural flavor) to make the music on this disc something to cherish. It's even made me interested in going back to the other albums they released... but we'll save those thoughts for another review.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.