Tesla – ‘Simplicity’

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On 4 June 2014
Last modified:3 June 2014


"...a masterpiece of pure, simple, rock 'n' roll played from its heart and soul."

It’s an unwritten rule that reviewers are not supposed to talk personally or write in the same mien, but I am sure our dear PM readers will indulge this writer in a touch of reminisence…

I remember well the first time I heard Tesla:  I was just over a hear into my journalism career and writing the only rock column being published on a regular basis by any Northern Ireland newspaper – ironically, a little weekly tabloid based in a town which derived its name from the old Scots name for ‘rock’.  At the beginning of December 1986, the usual bundle of packages (yes, in those days, record companies actually sent physical copies of albums – and on vinyl – through the post) arrived at the ‘paper’s seaside office, to be met, as usual, with much muttering and shoulder shrugging by the aged editor who promptly retreated to his office to shelter from the ensuing racket emanating from the battered stereo I had conned him into installing in the corner of the editorial room…

Tesla - Mechanical Resonance ArtworkFor some reason, my attention was immediately drawn to one album out of the dozen or so in the various packages… it was called ‘Mechanical Resonance’, and it was by an unknown band from California:  I don’t know what drew me to it – maybe it was the fact that the band didn’t look like one of the ten-a-penny hair metal acts which seemed to pop out of the sewers of that particular part of the world nearly every second of every day and polluted the office mailbox with as mus=ch regularlity… but, it turned out to an attraction which may not have been fatal but certainly had me falling head over heels in love with this fantastic band and album.  To say it blew me away would be the understatement of the millennium!  I reckon I burned out three copies of the album, and I still rate it as one of the best pure hard rock albums ever.

Wind the clock forward almost three decades and ‘Simplicity’, the latest offering from Tesla, has the same effect as that dynamic debut did all those years ago, as its an album which encapulates both its predecessor and the subsequent modern era in which it is spawned:  opener ‘MP3’ immediately references both the past and the presence, with a riff that grabs you by the short and curlies as suddenly and effectively as did that of ‘Ez Come Ez Go’, and its stark appeal for music to return to the simplicity of the album’s title.  In fact, the album is just such a challenge throughout… an album which sees a veteran band stripping everything back to its essential components – and those are solid riffs steeped in the rich musical heritage which the band draw upon, from classic rock through the blues to country and back to hard rock again.

TESLA-SIMPLICITY-CoverJeff Keith’s vocals are darker and grittier – that’s only to be expected – but they add beautiful layers of depth and feeling to each and every song, while Brian Wheat’s technique skilfully crafts each of the 14 tracks (yes, it’s an ambitious album in that regard, but then Tesla have never been a band to obey the rules) with the subtlety and precision of a surgeon performing open heart surgery but the passion of a true lover of his art.

It’s a challenging album – in it’s subject matter at least:  ‘Ricochet’, for example, tells the story of a band constantly doing just that, while ‘Rise And Fall’ comes with the challenge of “just when I think I’ve seen everything…” but at the same time questioning just how long an honest-to-goodness rawk band such as Tesla can keep coming back for more, while the impassioned ‘Honestly’ (which highlights the mellower middle section of this superbly paced opus) just about summarizes everything about this album, as Keith’s laconic drawl tells the tale of “a simple man doin’ the best I can”:  this is a simple rock ‘n’ roll band doing the best they can – and doing it bloody well!

‘Simplicity’ is a masterpiece of pure, simple, rock ‘n’ roll played from its heart and soul.

Track list:
MP3 / Ricochet / Rise And Fall / So Divine… / Cross My Heart / Honestly / Flip Side! / Other Than Me / Break Of Dawn / Burnout To Fade / Life Is A River / Sympathy / Time Bomb / ‘Til That Day

Recommended listening:  Ricochet / Honestly / Break Of Dawn

‘Simplicity’ is released on Frontiers Records on Friday (June 6).

Tesla play the O2 Academy, Islington, on Thursday June 12 and Download (Zippo Encore Stage) the following day.


"...a masterpiece of pure, simple, rock 'n' roll played from its heart and soul."

About Mark Ashby

no longer planetmosh staff