Sacramento's oddly named Tesla (a moniker inspired by renegade inventor and pioneering electrical engineer Nikola Tesla) took the side door to '80s hard rock success, sneaking up on the charts and into the bedrooms of none-the-wiser glam metal consumers with their rock-solid debut, Mechanical Resonance -- itself titled after one of Nikola's better-known experiments, and a fascinating case study in musical compromise if ever there were one. Essentially, the album was partitioned into two quite different halves, with side one predominantly tailored to seduce the aforementioned music fans via radio-friendly templates and therefore packed with mostly throwaway, cliché-ridden arena anthems like "EZ Come, EZ Go," "Cumin' Atcha Live," and the gloriously dumb "Rock Me to the Top," boasting few surprises but plenty of testosterone. Yes, a few hints of Tesla's substantial songwriting intelligence can be glimpsed within the gritty strut of "Gettin' Better" and the bluesy balladry of "We're No Good Together," but most of the band's more mature and accomplished songs are saved for Mechanical Resonance's revelatory side two. Here, lead guitarist Frank Hannon really takes charge and establishes himself as the band's de facto difference maker, beginning with an epic of Led Zeppelin-like class and complexity in "Modern Day Cowboy," which was built upon a lopsided riff so irresistible that not even its finger-twisting complexity could keep it from becoming one of their most popular standards. This was followed by another pair of eventual fan favorites doubling as good examples of Tesla's creative range, since the wintry drama of the piano-laced "Changes" stood in stark contrast to the upbeat summer vibe of "Little Suzi." And finally, as though the aforementioned detours didn't proffer enough food for thought, Tesla even flirted with art rock on the odd rhythms and clever economy of "Cover Queen," before concluding with the desolate sobriety of closer "Before My Eyes." Given all these qualities and contrasts, it's no wonder that Mechanical Resonance stood out as one of the 1980s' most eclectic hard rock albums, and provided a formidable introduction to one of the era's most underrated American bands.
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia