Picks and Pans Review: The Great Radio Controversy

updated 03/20/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/20/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST


Since releasing their debut album in 1986, Tesla, a Sacramento, Calif., hard-rock quintet, has spent most of the time touring, opening for such headliners as Def Leppard and David Lee Roth. Nothing like warming up arenas full of head-banger teenagers to teach you how to start your car with a nitro charge and keep it in over-drive. With The Great Radio Controversy, Tesla (named after eccentric scientist Nikola Tesla, who died in 1943) shows the boys have obviously learned their lesson. They peel out of the blocks with a screech—more than one screech actually—though they eventually run out of gas before the album is half over. Their métier and potatoes are such tooth rattlers as "Yesterdaze Gone" and slamming blues—"Heaven's Trail," for example. Some of the slower songs, such as "Lazy Days, Crazy Nights" and "Love Song," generate a becoming sweep. In fact, Tesla at times is caught between their rock and a softer place, as on the Def Leppard knock-off "Hang Tough," and then they sound too controlled. Sometimes the songs are just too slapdash, as on "Did It for the Money," and most of the album's second side. Tesla does have the talent to over-come a lot of their weaknesses. Jeff Keith has the right feral sound for this kind of beastly business. Frank Hannon and Tommy Skeoch keep their guitars wired up, and Troy Luccketta bangs the drums like a coolie driving railroad spikes. Not a bad record, guys. Now get out on the road for another two years and promote it, and try again when things are a trifle more refined. (Geffen)

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