On their first studio album in nine years, Stone Temple Pilots
have crafted a record that very much feels like a continuation of where this quartet were heading after 2001’s Shangri-La Dee Da
. Far from the proto-grunge of their early albums and closer to the mainstream spirit of both Shangri-La Dee Da
and frontman Scott Weiland
’s Velvet Revolver
records, Stone Temple Pilots
has more than its share of tuneful, deeply melodic moments. True, this isn’t the STP of “Plush,” but as their new record suggests, this might be a better, more confident version of the band.
The Time Apart Has Done Them Good
Soon after the release of 2001’s Shangri-La Dee Da
, Stone Temple Pilots called it quits, leaving behind a legacy of rock-radio hits that were never popular with critics, who accused them of milking the alt-rock formula of the 1990s for commercial success. After STP’s breakup, Weiland teamed up with Slash
and other former members of Guns N’ Roses
to form Velvet Revolver, a group that unapologetically embraced classic-rock traditions, albeit with a sleek listener-friendly sheen. Later, Weiland released the 2008 solo record “Happy” in Galoshes
, which allowed him to indulge his pop leanings and sonic adventurousness. Now that he’s back with his original group, it shouldn’t be a surprise that those side projects have influenced his melodies on Stone Temple Pilots
. With his bandmates providing music that often resembles a more muscular, guitar-focused approach to the Beatles
’ tight song structures, Weiland completes the band’s move away from the grunge leanings of Core
. This may disappoint some old-school STP fans, but it’s an organic evolution that quite suits them.
A Stylistic Sweep
In a lot of ways, the album’s lead single and opening track, “Between the Lines,”
is not indicative of the rest of Stone Temple Pilots
. Though its fierce sense of melody carries through a lot of Stone Temple Pilots
, “Between the Lines” possesses a strutting, up-tempo energy that’s not in keeping with the album’s largely reflective, sunny pop-rock. The closest the album comes to repeating the spirit of “Between the Lines” is on the next two tracks, “Take a Load Off” and “Huckleberry Crumble,” but from there the listener is confronted by Weiland’s spoken-sung vocals on “Hickory Dichotomy,” the balladry of “Dare If You Dare,” and the pure pop of “Cinnamon.” Emphasizing eclecticism, Stone Temple Pilots
probably most recalls 1996’s Tiny Music…Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop
in its stylistic sweep and largely gentler textures. It’s worth noting that Tiny Music
, despite its many hits, was the moment when STP started losing a grip on their massive audience by encouraging musical experimentation. But in retrospect, Tiny Music
was a crucial record in their oeuvre because it forced them to break out of the grunge mode that had characterized their first two albums, allowing them to flex their creative muscles. STP continue that musical progression on this new record, bringing in ’70-style arena rock, pop and glam for a tasty concoction. As a result, Stone Temple Pilots
thankfully lacks the dull nostalgia that often trips up reunion/comeback albums.
Happy to Be Back
At 12 tracks, Stone Temple Pilots
sags some in the center after an impressive start and a strong ending. “Hazy Daze” is as soupy as its title suggests, and “Bagman” is a weak stab at hard rock that lacks the fire of “Between the Lines.” But the lovely ballad “First Kiss on Mars” rights the ship as Stone Temple Pilots
heads toward its finale, the pretty piano ditty “Maver.” Back in the early ‘90s when Stone Temple Pilots were roundly berated for their carpetbagging sound, it was largely due to the fact that STP were able to make the alt-rock of Nirvana
and Pearl Jam
palatable to the masses, which was strictly verboten for a musical style that supposedly prized its lack of commercial compromise over everything else. Stone Temple Pilots can still be criticized for their cribbing from other bands — “Between the Lines,” for instance, clearly borrows from Nirvana’s “Stay Away” — but their melodic sense remains impressive. Stone Temple Pilots will never be a beloved critical institution, but on their first album after a long layoff they sound quite happy just being themselves.
'Stone Temple Pilots' – Best Tracks