Stone Temple Pilots – self titled (Rhino)
Against all odds, the band is back
Few band have dealt with as much chaos and tragedy as Stone Temple Pilots. Yet, here they are issuing their seventh studio album, simply titled Stone Temple Pilots, the first album without original vocalist Scott Weiland.
It’s not surprising that there’s a dark cloud that hangs over much of the album. For twenty years, the band rode the roller coaster ride of Weiland’s drug problems – sporadically breaking up, then reuniting, before finally firing him for good in 2013, and replacing him with Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. Both Weiland and Bennington would tragically pass away over the next few years. This new record is dedicated to both men, saying simply “we miss you” in the accompanying booklet.
Despite all the changes, the core lineup of Dean DeLeo (guitar), Robert DeLeo (bass) and Eric Kretz (drums), has remained the same.
The record opens with the propulsive “Middle of Nowhere.” Fueled by a repetitive guitar line and insistent drumming, it’s a perfect blend of the band’s past and present. Kretz is arguably the most underrated member, laying down a funky groove on “Guilty.” Their new singer, Jeff Gutt (from the X Factor TV show), at times sounds eerily like Weiland, as on the lead single, “Meadow,” which could easily have been an outtake from Purple.
Often lumped in with the Grunge movement, STP always rose above the doom and gloom genre, exhibiting an uncanny ability to write melodic tracks that still rocked hard. Here they add a psychedelic touch to the mid tempo “Just a Little Lie.” The real surprise is the very melodic “Thought She’d Be Mine.” If there was any justice in the world, this would be a smash hit – it’s that good.
“Never Enough” features an echoed lead vocal that Weiland used quite frequently, before morphing into a trippy, half-time chorus. The band also ventures into new territory here – the ukulele led “The Art of Letting Go” is surprisingly tender without being schmaltzy. Here, Gutt sounds nothing like Weiland as his voice soars.
The second half of the record gets more introspective. “Finest Hour” is a fitting tribute, featuring the line “you never said goodbye / it left a void like no other.” The album closes with the Beatle-esque “Reds & Blues” with the lyrics “and where you lie / a flower grows.”
There’s enough driving rockers to keep the longtime fans happy, but what really makes this record a success is the more melodic tracks. It’s good to have the Stone Temple Pilots back. —Tony Peters