Album review: Stone Temple Pilots (self-titled)

Posted: May 30, 2010 in Album Reviews

It’s been nine years since the last Stone Temple Pilots album (the uneven 2001 release, Shangri La De Da), as the band broke up and pursued other projects.
For lead singer Scott Weiland, that meant a stint in the hard rock supergroup Velvet Revolver (with three ex Guns N Roses members) and a decent solo album, along with his continued battle of staying sober (a big reason STP broke up in the first place). For the DeLeo brothers, they formed a decent but ultimately forgettable side project with the singer from Fuel (his name escapes me and I’m too lazy to go look it up) called Army of Anyone. As for drummer Eric Kretz, not quite sure of his whereabouts over the last nine years and again I’m too lazy to find out.
The boys from STP reunited in 2008 for a concert tour after Weiland’s unceremonious bouncing from Velvet Revolver. The reunion tour went well, so naturally the next step was to record new music together.
While the Pilots have never been critical darlings, I’ve always enjoyed them, so I was pretty excited to hear a new album from the guys. Weiland remains an excellent frontman, with a versatile voice which at times makes it sound like the group has a few lead singers.
And the DeLeo brothers have always written great hooks, although sometimes you find yourself playing a game of “guess the influence.”
On the new release, you hear mid 70s Aerosmith shining through on the excellent “Huckleberry Crumble,” which would have fit nicely on Get Your Wings, Toys in the Attic or Rocks (it has a definite Same Old Song and Dance feel). Lead single “Between the Lines” marks the band’s triumphant return and kicks off the overall positive vibe of the album, as Weiland, hopefully clean for awhile this time, sings the line “You always were my favorite drug, even when we used to take drugs.” And although I love the single, you can’t help but notice the middle section of the song sounds awfully similar to Nirvana’s Stay Away, but hey, STP was from that era so maybe they can get away with it.
There’s not a weak track on the album, as it shifts from old-school grunge of “Take a Load Off” and “Peacoat” to the beautiful balladry of the final two tracks, “Last Kiss on Mars” and “Maver.”
On “Last Kiss,” Weiland is a dead ringer for David Bowie in the verse lines, before drifting to more familiar voice when the chorus kicks in.
My favorite track on the album is “Dare if You Dare,” which has Beatlesque chord changes and tremendous vocals from Weiland, who really is in fine voice throughout the album.
Although a few songs have autobiographical lyrics alluding to Weiland’s drug problems (Between the Lines, Bagman), most of the album is written in more of a third-person perspective, and the music is quite upbeat and catchy throughout. It’s also more of a straight forward STP album, no stylistic detours which were especially present in albums like Purple, Tiny Music and No. 4. If I had to rank it with their other five albums, it would lie somewhere in the middle. I actually like it better than their breakthrough release Core, which was their biggest seller. Although I like a lot of songs on Core, there’s quite a bit of filler there as well, and it was really the only album where you really can say they were trying to sound like other grunge bands of the time. I like Purple and the vastly underrated No. 4 the best, so I’d put this one on par with another underrated gem, Tiny Music.
If you’re a fan of STP, you’ll love the disc. Even if you’re not, you should give it a try, because when you hear some of what’s being played on rock radio today (bands devoid of melody or personality), you appreciate these guys even more. They may not get the respect Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Alice In Chains have gotten over the years, but their fusion of classic rock sounds with their grunge counterparts has left a strong impression on me and many listeners. Just hope we hear a few more albums from them, but if not, this is a great sendoff.
Sod’s rating: ****

Other STP releases:
Core (1992): *** 1/2
Purple (1994): *****
Tiny Music….Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop (1996): ****
No. 4 (2000): **** 1/2
Shangri La De Da (2001): *** 1/2

  1. The Knotts Motel says:

    Turn the car around.

    But seriously, the new STP album is pleasantly surprising to this long-time fan of the band, despite said critical negativity throughout the Pilots’ career. And I’ve seen many formerly excellent artists put out modern-day work far below past-demonstrated potential. The new album is entertaining and covers many different styles, and probably more so on this STP album than any other, you can hear the influence of rock icons from the past (i.e. Beatles, Zeppelin, Bowie, etc.) shining through.

    Rock on Pilots.

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