Into The Now
Tesla - Into The Now - 2004 reviewed by: Vinaya Saksena
|Track Listing1. Into The Now|
2. Look @ Me
3. What A Shame
4. Heaven Nine Eleven
5. Words Can't Explain
6. Caught In A Dream
7. Miles Away
8. Mighty Mouse
9. Got No Glory
10. Come To Me
12. Only You
By now, you’ve probably had a chance to get a feel for public opinion of this much-anticipated “comeback” album from these veteran Sacramento, California rockers. Most press reviews so far seem to have been lukewarm to ecstatically raving, with most average Joes (and Josephines) I’ve talked to about it so far echoing that sentiment of respect and pleasant surprise. So forgive my predictability here, for not only do I concur with that overall sentiment, but I would add that in my humble opinion, this is basically the album Tesla had to make in order to make their long-awaited comeback plausible beyond the level of nostalgia.
As its title suggests, Into The Now is no nostalgia trip, except in the sense of nostalgia for a time when mainstream rockers seemed to actually care about their music, their fans, and the whole business as a unique and incredible artistic privilege, rather than a cushy meal ticket that most hard-working musicians would kill for. Towards this end, the band reportedly spent months, if not more, honing and perfecting a large number of songs that was eventually whittled down to the twelve tracks enclosed, writing and rewriting large portions of many songs along the way. And I must say, it actually shows.
As if written to be the album’s mission statement, “Into The Now” kicks things off impressively, its lumbering yet nimble and clever groove and bold, forward-thinking lyrics serving notice that Tesla are not going to let themselves get left behind. They’re not going to let themselves be pigeonholed either, a fact made clear by the album’s capable tackling of various styles that fit under the broad Tesla umbrella, but not the narrower “hair band” umbrella imposed on them in the eighties (much to the band’s chagrin). Rockers like “Look @ Me” and “Mighty Mouse” rumble along with surprising heaviness at a slow-to mid pace. “Words Can’t Explain” and the warm whimsical “Caught Up In A Dream” are comfortable acoustic guitar driven ballads. At the other end of the spectrum is the semi-progressive, autobiographical (?) “Miles Away” and the slightly ornery “Got No Glory.” Perhaps most noteworthy, however, is guitarist Frank Hannon’s “Heaven Nine Eleven”, a powerful mood piece that addre
sses that fateful day in September 2001 you knew they had to address.
Indeed, “Heaven Nine Eleven” is indicative of the album’s overall mood and its thematic content. Lyrically, Jeff Keith, the band’s pleasantly gravel-voiced front man, lays bare a complex web of emotions that resonate on many levels, due in no small part to the aforementioned terrorist attacks and the spiral of events that has occurred in its wake. “Caught In A Dream” espouses an idealistic “Love Thy Neighbor” pacifism, while the aforementioned “Heaven Nine Eleven” cries out in agonized frustration over mankind’s overwhelming failure to attain that ideal of love and peace. “What A Shame” and and “Only You” seem to address the loss of love (the latter, perhaps, through death, a theme also alluded to in “Miles Away”). And capping it off, “Recognize” tells of lost innocence and shattered illusions. Thankfully, “Come to Me” lightens the lyrical tone to squeeze in some of that good old Tesla optimism of an almost purely pop nature.
Overall, Tesla have produced a surprisingly solid and mature album on which to continue on comeback trajectory. My only complaints would be the somewhat formulaic and self-conscious use of trendy electronic sound treatment on the drums and vocals, and too many songs that utilize the same moderately slow, heavy, modern rock format. But with the quality of material present throughout, and no obvious filler tracks, it is obvious that Tesla intend to claim whatever credibility they have been (unjustly) denied in the past, giving critics and fans no easy excuse to write them off. I think empathy plays a big part here. While opinions on both the music enclosed and the lyrical issues addressed will inevitably vary, something on here will surely resonate with almost anyone who gives it a chance. And therein lies the beauty of the band’s music.
Rating: 8 (out of 10)
Note: I saw these guys on the “Rock Never Stops” tour with Skid Row and Vince Neil, where the band previewed “Heaven Nine Eleven” (introduced by Frank simply as “Heaven”). Can’t be sure of this, but I seem to remember the song as having an arrangement slightly different from the album version. Hmm.....
--Vinaya Saksena 04.07.04