Danny’s Stone Temple Pilots Rank-a-thon
8. Perdida (2020)
After a moderately successful reboot with a capable new vocalist in Jeff Gutt, STP embark on what I can only imagine is a vanity project of sorts: an acoustic record made with mostly vintage and left-of-center instrumentation, combining elements of soft rock, country, and (ahem) mariachi music.
The results are fine, but certainly not exceptional. The DeLeo brothers’ jazz influence is dialed back a little, but their signature chord vocabulary is front and center while Gutt provides a strong vocal performance that sidesteps the fact that he simply lacks the late Scott Weiland’s inherent tunefulness.
For an album of essentially background music, there are plenty of better options. Meanwhile, the core strengths of STP’s sound (see what I did there?) — the power, the groove, and the harmonic adventurousness — wind up being purposefully downplayed, making Perdida an inessential side project for the group.
7. Shangri-La Dee Da (2001)
At the time of its release, STP had serious momentum. Weiland was sober — for the time being — newly married and inspired by the recent birth of his son. The band was functional again, after having to sit on the bench during the initial months of their previous record’s release while Weiland served a prison term for drug possession.
It seems dysfunction ultimately made this band better, because Shangri-La Dee Da is wildly uneven. Still, it’s brimming with confidence, from the raucous opener “Dumb Love” to sappy ballads like “Wonderful,” not to mention a thinly veiled swipe at Courtney Love on “Too Cool Queenie.” Unfortunately, it’s mostly a mess of decent starts developed into half-baked ideas. When it comes down to it, the band wasn’t hungry, and it showed.
There are a couple of great songs. “Black Again” is fantastic, and “Bi-Polar Bear” is a career highlight for Weiland as a vocalist. “Transmissions From A Lonely Room” would have made a far better lead single than “Days Of The Week,” which fell completely flat against the post-grunge and nü metal landscape of the time. Much of the rest runs in a similar vein — tuneful enough to be mildly memorable, but ultimately bland and just as easily forgotten.
6. Stone Temple Pilots (2018)
After their 2010 reunion album and ensuing tour, STP fired Weiland in 2013 over his erratic behavior. Shortly afterward, they partnered with Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington for a tour and EP (High Rise, which was pretty good). By 2015, things had gone dormant in terms of band activity. Then, in December 2015, Weiland died of a drug overdose. A year and a half later, Bennington committed suicide.
By then, Stone Temple Pilots had hooked up with new vocalist Jeff Gutt and begun work on a reboot album of sorts. Gutt fills the role nicely, sounding enough like Weiland at times to sound familiar while still adding his own personal touch to the music. While Weiland was more wildly inventive melodically, Gutt showcases more versatility and technique — not to mention lyrical coherence.
Artistically, STP’s second self-titled is a resounding success, reestablishing the band as a functioning unit. “Meadow” and “Roll Me Under” demonstrate that the DeLeo brothers haven’t lost their knack for riff-driven hook writing, while “Thought She’d Be Mine” sublimely echoes Tiny Music’s power pop. The album’s best moment, perhaps, is the gorgeous ballad “The Art Of Letting Go,” perfectly delivered vocally by Jeff Gutt, illustrating his worthiness to succeed one of rock’s all-time great frontmen.
While no one will confuse this record with the band’s mid-nineties heyday, this album exceeds any reasonable expectations, especially considering the long shadow cast by Scott Weiland.
5. Stone Temple Pilots (2010)
Following Weiland’s successful two-album fling with Velvet Revolver (as well as the DeLeo Brothers far less successful Army Of Anyone project with Filter’s Richard Patrick), STP regrouped for a reunion tour and album, which they largely self-produced. (Don Was co-produced a few tracks.). While lead single “Between The Lines” got a decent amount of airplay, the album flopped, and tensions arose yet again eventually leading to a permanent split.
It’s unfortunate, because this was a great record. It’s inventive, it’s high energy, and it’s just overall fun. The band explored its typically wide variety of styles, from the Aerosmith-style swagger of “Huckleberry Crumble” through Weiland’s Bowie-on-coke croon on the country-fried “Hickory Dichotomy.” “Cinnamon” brings Cheap Trick flavors, while “First Kiss On Mars” could have been a hit single if it was released in the 90’s.
But it wasn’t the 90’s. In spite of its high quality, the album was simply out of place in the 2010 rock landscape, as if the band were simply making up for lost time. That itself would have been fine if its lack of success hadn’t caused the band to eventually self-destruct yet again.
4. Tiny Music… Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop (1996)
At the time of its release, Tiny Music was a huge critical success, and the Stone Temple Pilots were getting good reviews from critics for the first time in the their career. They had abandoned their heavy-rock leanings for jazzier elements and power pop, with superb results.
But then, Weiland’s drug problem reared its ugly head. Musically, Tiny Music is off the chart, but lyrically, it goes well beyond Weiland’s already oblique lyricism. Made while he was heavily under the influence, the song titles alone indicate a striking disconnect from reality: “Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart,” “Pop’s Love Suicide,” “Five Or Four Times” (retitled “Art School Girl”). It’s somewhat disconcerting that we weren’t *more* worried about Weiland when this record came out.
Propelled by singles “Big Bang Baby” and the 60’s pastiche “Lady Picture Show,” Tiny Music was a successful record despite the band being unable to promote it on the road. Shortly into the supporting tour, STP ended up having to scrap dates so Weiland could go to rehab. Eventually the band went their separate ways — the DeLeos and drummer Eric Kretz forming Talk Show with David Coutts and releasing their excellent and underrated self-titled album in 1997, followed shortly by Weiland’s certifiably insane — but also brilliant — solo record 12 Bar Blues. They would eventually get back together in 1998 to make one more gem.
3. No. 4 (1999)
“You’re really putting No. 4 ahead of Tiny Music?”
Yep, and it’s mostly because at no point in his career did Scott Weiland ever sound better than he does on this record. The absolute high point is the album’s closing number, “Atlanta” — just listen to it, and tell me you aren’t moved.
Heralded as a return to the band’s hard rock sound, No. 4 by and large demonstrated growth. Weiland’s lyrics were unusually coherent— in his own way, anyway. “Down” examines the media attention on his substance abuse issues with lyrics like “please to meet you, nice to know me,” while “Sour Girl” acknowledges his fault in his failed marriage; “I Got You” deals directly with his struggles with addiction.
Musically, the album mostly brings the rock. “No Way Out” is reminiscent of Core’s heaviness, while “Sex & Violence” recalls Purple’s more upbeat alt-rock energy. Tracks like “Church On Tuesday” and the gorgeous “Glide” combine these approaches with Tiny Music’s overt tunefulness. Little did we know at the time, but No. 4 would prove to be Stone Temple Pilots’ last truly great album.
2. Core (1992)
I bought this cassette when I was thirteen after hearing the song “Creep,” but it ended up being the album’s inner grooves that hooked me. “Piece Of Pie,” “Sin,” and “Naked Sunday” are killer album tracks that get overshadowed by the singles; “Plush,” “Wicked Garden,” and “Sex Type Thing” were early 90’s alt-rock radio staples. Hell, even opener “Dead & Bloated” gets regular rotation despite never being released as a single. This album is just that good.
It’s still somewhat flawed. “Sex Type Thing,” despite its absolute monster of a riff, was roundly criticized as misogynistic and glorifying sexual assault, even though Weiland’s intention was the opposite, and he missed the mark. The album as a whole flexes a muscular, hyper-masculine sound that was at odds with alternative rock at the time, bringing about questions over the band’s authenticity, with additional criticism focusing on Weiland’s perceived stylistic similarity to Eddie Vedder on “Plush.”
In the end, Core has outlasted its critics, and has proved to be an influential album on what would eventually be called “post-grunge,” ensuring its place in nearly every rock fan’s collection.
- Purple (1994)
I covered this album during my ‘90’s Alternative rank-a-thon last year, so I’ll be brief: this album rules. For me, it’s the hidden gems like “Still Remains,” that killer riff in “Silvergun Superman,” that *other* killer riff that opens “Meatplow…” It’s just a quintessential nineties album, and the ultimate Stone Temple Pilots album.
Fun fact: the album title is spelled with a Chinese character on the cover artwork, but otherwise nowhere to be found on the record.
Up next: the band that launched a thousand lesser copycats in the early nineties and then did everything they could to “tear apart their own fame.”