Hearing Aide: Tesla’s ‘Simplicity’
As Generation X approaches their 40s, many catch themselves reciting the Old Man’s diatribe, “Back in my time”. But, when the conversation gravitates towards music, it’s difficult to argue against those who wish to harken back to what was popular in the late ’80s and early ’90s. In that time, more so than now, a wide breadth of musical genres were represented on Top-40 radio stations – rap, r&b, blues, country (who the hell is Garth Brooks?), pop, new jack swing, grunge, and even Meatloaf came back from the dead. Before they tore down the Berlin Wall, every teenager in the United States would keep a blank tape cassette in his or her stereo and curse the DJ for sneaking a Guns ‘n’ Roses track past them, after having played Whitney Houston. I mean, who does that?
Ah, but lest we forget hair metal.
Tesla is one of those bands that helped define the metal sub-genre often associated with power ballads, catchy guitar riffs and Aqua Net. The boys out of Sacramento peaked with the 1989 release of The Great Radio Controversy, from which “Love Song” was produced. An acoustic follow-up was released a year later, sending them back onto the charts with their rendition of the ’60s folk song, “Signs”. However, they peaked just prior to hair metal’s collapse around 1992 when Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains changed the focus on mainstream music. It’s only with the recent popularity of Steel Panther, and radio programs such as Hair Nation on SiriusXM, has hair metal regained popularity.
Tesla fans have eagerly awaited a new album ever since the band released “Taste My Pain” as a stand alone single last June. However, what seems to have fans most excited about Simplicity‘s release today is the promise of hearing the return of the band’s vintage sound.
And, that promise has been fulfilled.
Simplicity is an intimate conversation between Tesla and the fans who grew up listening to them. From the nostalgic sound of a needle making contact with a vinyl record to introduce the opening track “MP3”, to the following message sung through Jeff Keith’s trademark raspy voice in the following track, “Ricochet”, the listener is invited to a special reunion:
“So here we are, we’re back again/with a brand new record and ready to spin. We love our fans, want to make ’em proud/Slap it in! Turn it up loud!”
Naturally, the ballads covering unrequited love like “Other Than Me” and “Burnout to Fade” are two of the stronger tracks on this release. It’s where they seem to shine the most, with less predictable rhyme schemes, the effort seems less forced. Perhaps the best example of musicianship from the group is saved for the last track “Till That Day”, with a Frank Hannon’s crying guitar lingering in the memory long after the song draws to an end. Of course, it, too, is a ballad.
Key Tracks: Other Than Me, Burnout to Fade, Till That Day