Many fans say that their love (okay, like) of Stone Temple Pilots stops at Purple, maybe Tiny Music if you really push it. But in the late ’90s and early ’00s, STP released No 4. and Shangri-La Dee Da, each showcasing a near complete style change for the group. Gone were the standard issue rock/grunge tracks, replaced by a sort of hard psychedelic rock.
Stone Temple Pilots sits somewhere in the middle. This is more like a band trying to re-create their sound while thinking about the 60s; mixing in a more bluesy tone on the guitars and simplifying what was already one of the most understated rhythm sections in American rock music. There are a number of great cuts on the album, but at the same time a few really abysmal songs. This is not a masterpiece. It isn’t going to win over very many new fans. Stone Temple Pilots is a somewhat flawed, but overall enjoyable new album by a group who’s lead singer wasn’t expected to live past 1998.
Scott Weiland is in top form on the disc. I’ve said it while reviewing their live shows and his last solo album; his voice is different than it used to be. Possibly a side-effect from the drug use, the years of smoking, whatever excuse you want. It’s deeper, more grainy than before, but the change is for the best.
STP jumps all over the place; At times we have 60s-wannabe music (Bagman), truly Bowie-esque material (First Kiss On Mars), and then on the other hand we have the band attempting to appropriate Aerosmith’s entire vibe (Huckleberry Crumble), or the chorus of Nirvana’s Stay Away (Between the Lines). It’s an odd meshing of styles that doesn’t make for the most cohesive of albums, but it’s certainly entertaining.
There are a handful of incredibly solid tracks, starting with Hickory Dichotomy. It’s a bluesy track slightly reminiscent of The Doors, with Weiland moaning about the media (or perhaps his ex-wife’s book). They’ve been playing the track live and luckily it translates well to record. You can almost picture Weiland strutting around on stage, and by the time the chorus hits for the second time you will find yourself singing along. Go ahead, it’s okay; It’s a good song.
Take A Load Off is perhaps the most standard STP sounding track on the disc. The thing really shines in the chorus, where the brothers DeLeo almost sound like they are in a race to see who can trip up Weiland first. The vocals are understated by the staccato instrumental work that sounds as if it was made for a live performance. It’s a powerful song, and the band sounds fantastic.
A few songs are just okay: Cinnamon, the band’s attempt at new wave Hazy Daze, which suffers from an over-glossed production, and Fast As I Can which tries (and ultimately fails) to be yet another Aerosmith attempt.
On the other hand, there’s a string of bad songs in the mix as well. First Kiss On Mars sounds like Weiland & Co. raided Bowie’s vault and pulled this track out. At times Scott seriously sounds like Ziggy himself; perhaps he was inspired when he decided to cover Fame on his last solo effort, Happy in Galoshes. I’m all about Bowie, but not when I’m supposed to be listening to STP.
Dare If You Dare is starts off promising enough, but when it hits the chorus gets a bit to close to Green Day’s 21 Guns for comfort. It’s not a note-for-note match but it’s close enough that now all I’m thinking about how stupid Bille Joe Armstrong has looked for the last few years.
Perhaps that’s the biggest problem with Stone Temple Pilots. Instead of thinking about STP, the entire record listeners are going to be bombarded with the band attempting to sound like anyone except themselves. We’ve got some of mainstream rock’s best: Nirvana (Between the Lines), Aerosmith, Bowie, wannabe-Beatles. Why the band decided to attempt and recreate themselves under this facade I don’t know, but luckily there are enough good tracks to salvage the disc.
It’s certainly not the best album this year, but it’s better than I think most were thinking the band was capable of delivering. That’s saying a lot for a band who barely escaped the 90s. Definitely a purchase for STP fans, but for the rest of you, check out some tracks online and see what you think first.
Reviews published prior to February 23, 2015 used a 1-5 star rating system.