REVIEW: Tesla – Bust a Nut (1994)

TESLA – Bust a Nut (1994 Geffen)

During my first few weeks at the Record Store, one of the new releases I got to deal with was the new Tesla, Bust a Nut.  My boss cracked open a copy to play in store, but he wasn’t impressed.

“It sounds the same…” he remarked.  “It’s just the same.”

Gosh, Tesla didn’t go grunge or rap in 1994?  What a crime.  No, instead Tesla stubbornly continued, as they always have, without bowing to trends.  Bust a Nut wasn’t a successful album, but it was a damn good one.  To call Bust a Nut “the same” sells it short.  It sounded like Tesla, but a tad heavier and more diverse.  Of course, this being Tesla, there must be ballads too.

“The Gate” invites you in via chugging guitars and squealing six-strings.  It merges into “Invited”, a hell of a fine introduction.  “Invited” reflects the light and shade of Tesla in one song:  the mournful acoustic verses, the heavy and catchy choruses, all grounded in a solid classic rock vibe.  Tommy Skeoch and Frank Hannon made one fine guitar duo, and the layers of instrumental goodness will keep you interested and digging for more.  Heavier still is “The Solution”, which is about as metal as Tesla have ever been.  Songs about environmental conservation are more relevant than ever:  “Mother nature’s on her knees, and we’re the reason for her disease.”  Very true, Jeff Keith.  “If we’re gonna make it through tomorrow, the solution is to make a change today.”  Tesla have never used such a grinding, detuned riff like this before.  What’s this about it being “just the same”?  Tesla didn’t go grunge, but they were able to go harder within their own style.

A brilliant track called “Shine Away” uses the soft/loud dynamic popularized by grunge, but that chorus is brighter than the sun.  Enjoy some patented Tesla guitar harmonies which always sound as if inspired by Thin Lizzy, though this time verging on Iron Maiden!  Time to cool things down with a ballad, and “Try So Hard” is a lovely one in the acoustic mold.  A good variety of tunes occupy the rest of side one, but the next obvious standout is “Action Talks”.  This is as angry as Tesla get, even dropping a “fuck you!” in the lyrics.  It’s difficult to imagine that the same band can do “Action Talks” and “Try So Hard”!

Bluegrass and heavy bluesy rock collide on “Mama’s Fool”, as Tesla have never been afraid to mix genres.  Sharp fans will recognize the opening and closing acoustic patterns as the same as “Government Personnel” from Psychotic Supper (1991).  A slamming beat drives the tense “Cry”, a killer track based on a simple riff.  Dig that theremin!  “Rubberband” returns to the soft/loud format, and the loud part is fucking killer.  The chorus goes on for days and sticks like glue.  Another heavy groove called “Earthmover” earns its title, but some of the best tracks on side two are the ballads.  “A Lot to Lose” is likeable, and “Wonderful World” begins with a southern acoustic flavour.  Best of all is the fun closer, the old Joe South hit “Games People Play”.  It’s Tesla-fied, and the sitar is ditched in favour of more traditional rock instrumentation.  It’s transformed into a soul-gospel-rock and roll good time.

Tesla fired Tommy Skeoch (too many drug problems) and went down to a quartet before splitting up.  Thankfully they have enjoyed a long and quality-driven reunion since 2001.  Bust a Nut is an unsung highlight of their catalogue, and an album you’d be well advised to pick up.

4/5 stars

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10 comments

  1. Anything Tesla is great in my book. I have been a fan since the beginning, but I didn’t grab this album when it came out. I came across it a few years later and I have to agree with your assessment.

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  2. Count me in too. Think I have probably every cd they ever released favorite being Psychotic Supper.That’s the one i have played the most. I recall listening to Into the now a lot being so happy that they were back.

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  3. I don’t know anything of theirs other than the recent Mechanical Resonance Live album (which I really like). Very much a band that I’ll be checking out more of.

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  4. Man I dig it when Ladano inspires a dust off of a record in my own collection and one I’ve not played in a while.

    Remember buying Bust A Nut about the time of its release and while not quite as good as Psychotic or their first couple (am I alone in thinking The Great Radio Controversy has aged best of them all?) Bust A Nut was still a fantastic record and I was disappointed it didn’t do better for them (sign of the times :)

    Great review Mike, I’d put this about 3.5 maybe closer to yer 4/5, either way another cool read thanks.

    (Book review being done shortly :)

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    1. Right on, looking forward to it Wardy! Keeps me from having to yammer on all the time.

      I think my favourite Tesla might still be Mechanical Resonance. However there is no denying the brilliance of Great Radio Controversy and especially the track Heaven’s Trail! It has probably aged the best of all the albums, you are right. Acoustic Jam aside…

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  5. A great band, sadly overlooked in the pantheon of heavy rock. Psychotic Supper is my next purchase. Recently bought this one and Tesla Gold pretty cheap from Ebay. Great review as usual Mike.

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