REVIEW: Tesla – Psychotic Supper (1991)

“We’re just children of the 60’s, watched the 70’s go by.  Now we made it through the 80’s, my my how time does fly!” – Jeff Keith

TESLA – Psychotic Supper (Geffen, 1991)

Psychotic Supper, the 3rd studio album by Tesla, is thus far their most adventurous and experimental. Is is neither as immediate as Mechanical Resonance nor as focused as The Great Radio Controversy, instead focusing on longer song structures and diverse influences.  It is difficult to penetrate, and even once you do finally dig in, there are some songs that simply refuse to stick to the memory. However one must applaud Tesla for sheer musical ability and refusal to do the commercial thing and sell out for the long awaited third album.

Taking their love of Nikola Tesla to the nth degree, they present a history lesson in the smokin’ “Man Out Of Time Edison’s Medicine”. What an incredible song. I still remember seeing the music video and being blown away by the solos. Not only are there guitar solos, but Tommy Skeoch torments the theremin, before Frank Hannon slipps on a bass and plays a bass solo too!

Great rock tunes include: “Change In The Weather”, the groovin’ “Freedom Slaves”, the jokey but smokin’ “Toke About It”, the aforementioned “Edison’s Medicine”, and the thrash-like “Don’t De-Rock Me”. Y’see children, back in the 80’s when Al Gore’s wife Tipper was a founder of a pro-censorship group called the PMRC, there really were places called de-rock centers. You could send your kids to detox them off rock music and turn them onto safe alternatives. No lie. (Is it any wonder that bands like Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana came along during this period?)

There are also a series of long, exploratory songs such as the mournful “Song And Emotion”, dedicated to Steve “Steamin'” Clarke of Def Leppard who passed away in January of that year. Skeoch paid tribute to Clarke’s “Gods of War” parts with his E-bow solo, listen for it.  Tommy Skeoch was a devoted Def Leppard fan, and Tesla had also opened for the Leppard because they shared management.

There are ballads too. I don’t think any are particularly standouts in the way “Love Song” was, but “What You Give” was a respectable hit.  I don’t check out Tesla so much for the ballads (even though they are excellent at them) but for the rockers.  Jeff Keith’s raspy but powerful voice can excel at either.  The man is one of the most underrated singers in rock.

If grunge didn’t hit, I could have imagined this album spawning multiple hit singles and videos for at least a year.

4/5 stars

I only own one single from this album, which is “Call It What You Want”.  It has some interesting B-sides, so tomorrow, we’ll take a look at that one!  Hope to see you then.

65 comments

  1. This is my second favourite Tesla album. Plain rocks from start to finish. Government Personal I love sometimes just the easy simple stuff is the catchiest along with Change In The Weather…great sound as well,not over produced kinda like a stick it to the glitzy produced albums of the era.
    Caught this tour in the summer of 92 in Duluth Minnesota with Firehouse opening.
    Tesla was a good live show no frills just lights/amps/songs. But they did do something that to this day I still remember and have seen no other band do and that’s when they opened with Coming Atcha Live ,Skeoch /Hannon strolled out on stage with all the house lights on and when the drums kicked in all the house lights went off..simple yet effective to the point I still remember it to this day. We’re were about 30 rows back and they caught almost everybody off guard with that move…haha…..
    I also howl at the picture of them With Keith on his back at that same show they were selling t shirts of that print on the front!
    Hahahaha…should have bought it!
    Good show/album…..

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    1. Underrated band and I’m glad they still rock. Wish they made albums as frequently as they used to but I don’t like the reunion era discs as much as the “classic four” studio albums from their first run. Even Bust A Nut was pretty good.

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      1. Totally agree with u 100% on that call Mike….I have not bought any Tesla since the double live album from about 10 yrs ago or so….

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        1. I have liked all of Teslas output but my fav would have to be Bust A Nut. I’m sure this may be up for some discussion but for me the fact that they stuck this out in 94 and pretty much stuck to there guns ya gotta hand it to them,just love Mamas Fool….one of there best tracks in my mind anyways….like Jon said great band live that will blow u into next week!

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        2. Cheers Deke, that’s cool that they stuck to their guns during the 90s. A lot of bands didn’t, with varied results! Haha. I like that title Bust A Nut too… I wonder if they do one of those original albums collections where I could buy a batch of their stuff?

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  2. This is aTesla record. Therefore it rocks! Tesla never made a bad album, come to think of it, not even a bad song, during their entire career. Even their least great album, the reunion album Into The Now is a good one. This album kicks butt and it’s my favourite efter The Great Radio Controversery. The sooooo underated Bust A Nut is at third place.
    I saw them at Sweden Rock Festival in 2009 (I think…) and they blew me away right into next week. What a killer band. I hear that they are recording a new album as we speak. Looking forward to that, their last one, Forever More was brilliant.

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    1. “This is a Tesla record. Therefore it rocks!”

      -Agreed. Well said.

      “Even their least great album, the reunion album Into The Now is a good one.”

      -Agreed again. Two for two!

      “The sooooo underated Bust A Nut is at third place”

      It IS so underrated. I gave it lots of store play back in ’94-95 but to no avail. It just wasn’t their time.

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  3. I only went as far as ‘..Resonance’, but I had heard this was a good one. Not thought about Tesla for a long time actually, they make good road trip music.

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        1. Gotcha!

          Because it came before MTV Unplugged, it was really ground breaking. I’d never heard a band do an acoustic set like that before. I give ’em full points, it was a toss-off album that they never intended to release, and it was a huge hit. Maybe their biggest.

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  4. I have seen the Reel 2 Reels but like artists putting out greatest hits after greatest hits compilations and cover albums I just burned out on them but the fact that they covered BTOs 4 Wheel Drive peaked my curiosity ..that was the track right Mike?

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  5. Look forward to it Mike..shifting gears here Mike I just purchased the new Coney Hatch and Harem Scarem Mood Swings re record ….
    Coney sounds like Coney should and Harems sound is beefier but I listened just to Had Enough and Empty Promises..love those two tracks!

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      1. Upon further review of the new Coney I hear some Cheap Trick influence in there mixed with there own style. The songs grow on you with more listens….
        I like it and so will u Mike

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    1. Why did Harem Scarem re-record Mood Swings? I haven’t heard it, but it feels like a throwaway. I mean, the original still sounds so good.

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      1. Jon I read that the band wanted Warner’s to do a 20th anniversary edition but the label said no to the idea so since Harem Scarem owns the songs they decided fine we will re record it. Sure the original is fine but the remake is good also . A little more beefer sounding in the mix than the original ….
        I like it…

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  6. U know for me personally having iTunes is very handy I would love to be able to go to the store to buy these releases but the reality is with a wife,3 daughters, 2 dogs and a mortgage( u know the drill) iTunes makes it affordable for me to buy this stuff if anything but I do miss the liner notes etc as not all releases have them which sucks but on the other hand I can get instant access to it . I’m a preorder o holic!
    Hahahaha……
    But yeah u will dig the Coney and when u review it can u post the liner notes !
    Hahahaha…

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  7. Esp for the good cause he’s doing it for….should have done the pledge music thingy..I did it for Metal On Ice and am glad I did and man it was too easy….

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  8. I find the Bust A Nut thing never gets old. Or less enjoyable.

    The only Tesla I ever owned was the acoustic live thing, Five Man Acoustical Jam or whatever it was, when he mucks up the lyrics to Mother’s Little Helper and then says “Don’t tell Mick…” I had that on cassette.

    But I had a buddy who had them all so I heard them a lot. Very good stuff (says my ancient memory of high school).

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        1. Funny thing is I was gonna post a Record Store Tale about people who would walk in and ask for the latest “tape” by Garth Brooks, when they meant CD. I always found that odd.

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        2. Yeah. And you hear people like Dave Grohl say the same thing, and it doesn’t bother me. But “tape” used to drive me nuts. It was always the same type of person that asked for “tapes”.

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    1. Not to be a wise-ass, but I think he actually says is “I’m sorry, Mick…” or something like that. Jeez, I’m a nerd….

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        1. I don’t the album anymore, and memory of it is half a lifetime old. I tried looking it up on the youtubes, and you can see him flub it (and stick his tongue out at a girl), but the video cuts off right when he’s about to get to the part we’re wondering about.

          So I Googled deeper and found a “lyrics” site, where someone has way too much time in their finite life for typing up all the song lyrics of an album. And they included the salient banter text, at the end of the song. I don’t know if this is accurate, but it’s a start.

          What a drag it is, getting old
          “It’s so different today”, I hear every mother say
          They just need something today, for confidence
          And though she’s not really ill, there’s a little yellow pill
          She goes running for the shelter of her mother’s little helper
          And the kids are all away, it’s a blue and busy day
          “Things are different today”, I hear every mother say
          Couldn’t crash before her husband, such a drag
          So she buys a [risen] cake and she burns a frozen steak
          And goes running for the shelter of her mother’s little helper
          And the kids are all away, it’s a blue and busy day
          Oh doctor, please, I’m [on my knees], outside the door she took for more
          What a drag it is, getting old
          When you stop and save today, I hear every mother say
          They just don’t appreciate that you’ve retired
          They’re so hard to satisfy, lookin’ tranquil at your mind
          And goes running for the shelter of her mother’s little helper
          And forgets her through the night, helps to minimize her flight
          Oh doctor, please, I’m [on my knees], outside the door she took for more
          What a drag it is, getting old
          When you stop and save today, I hear every mother say
          That this mood of happiness is such a bore
          If you take some more of those, you will get an overdose
          You’ll go running for the shelter of your mother’s little helper
          And forget to run away
          Hey!
          Uh-oh! I fucked up there a little bit, please don’t tell Mick!
          Alright! Now it’s time to play something a little different
          It’s a song of our first album (surprise ’em)
          And it’s gonna be rocking (surprise ’em)
          Yeah, surprise, this is called “Surprise for you”
          Surprise ’em, surprise ’em
          Surprise, surprise (okay, tell ’em what it is)
          (Wanna tell ’em what it is, or should I just start it?)
          Start it, Frank! Hey, right on
          Yeah, ow, alright!

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        2. Wow does that bring back the memories. I remember them teasing about the “surprise song” and then I think it was something obscure like “Before My Eyes” from the first album.

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        3. Amazon track list says Modern Day Cowboy?

          1. Comin’ Atcha Live/Truckin’
          2. Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)
          3. The Way It Is
          4. We Can Work It Out
          5. Signs
          6. Gettin’ Better
          7. Before My Eyes
          8. Paradise
          9. Lodi
          10. Mother’s Little Helper
          11. Modern Day Cowboy
          12. Love Song
          13. Tommy’s Down Home
          14. Down Fo’ Boogie

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  9. I remember hearing about those De-rock centres, made me laugh back then. There was a good documentary in 1991 about all that called “Dancing With the Devil.” It even showed a record burning. Watching someone through AC/DC’s “74 Jailbreak” onto the fire made me want to buy it more.

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    1. I think I found it! I have never seen a record burning before.

      I find it odd how they’re chanting “Jesus”! as they burn the records. I grew up Catholic and I can remember no passages in the Bible where Jesus commands his disciples to destroy music.

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        1. Dunno man. All I know is one of the preachers there was talking way too much about the kids’ “holes”.

          “You listen to that music, that’s just one more way the Devil puts his message into one of your holes.”

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      1. I’ve read the bible and I never read anything about destroying music either. I had a friend who converted and thought he was failing Jesus because he couldn’t bring himself to destroy his record collection.

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        1. That’s too bad. I’ve always assumed God would be a fan of all forms of art. You know, proud of his creations like a parent would be. But that’s just my opinion, I’m no scholar like the jokers in this film seem to claim to be.

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        2. Christian rock bands claim that God created rock and roll but it’s been hijacked by the devil. That friend sold a lot of his music instead. I bought three cassettes from him; Loverboy, April Wine and Foreigner.

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