Stone Temple Pilots (2018)

Stone Temple Pilots

Play Pen/Rhino/Atlantic, 2018

http://www.stonetemplepilots.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/27/2018

To me, and to a lot of fans of the original lineup, STP always emanated a certain sort of hazy hard rock magic on their first three albums, an atmosphere of swirling “grunge” rock mixed with Aerosmith swagger and the occasional tender heart at the center. When they were on, their songs ranked among the best of the decade; at worst, they were simply a good hard rock band. As their career progressed, the songs got a little shorter, a little punchier, a little poppier, and then they were gone in 2003. But even those last two albums (No. 4 and Shangri-La Dee Da) had their moments that reminded discerning listeners this band was always better than myopic critics pegged them to be.

Singer Scott Weiland left the band to join Velvet Revolver, then left them to record Stone Temple Pilots in 2010, an underrated psychedelic pop-rock album that was a welcome return from the quartet. However, Weiland was fired shortly thereafter and the remaining trio brought on Chester Bennington to record an EP, High Rise. This union was shortlived as well.

Fast forward five years. Both Bennington and Weiland have passed away. STP, though, lives to fight another day, with the DeLeo brothers and Eric Kretz following the same sonic blueprint as the last four STP albums. Calling their new album by the same title as the last one is risky, but canny, as if to introduce fans to this new incarnation of the band anew and maybe bring some new fans aboard.

The biggest question people have regards new singer Jeff Gutt (of the TV show “The X Factor”) and whether he can fill Weiland’s soles. Technically, yes; he not only sounds like Weiland but has the right cadence and personality for the DeLeo’s music. He’s also a bit safe, not bland by any means but never overshadowing the music, though certainly his lyrics are better than some of the crap Weiland used to pass off. He has the tools to be a long-term fit for a band that could use some stability.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Stone Temple Pilots is a grower, surprisingly, an album that gets better with repeated plays after the initial “meh” feeling wears off. You have that feeling because you want the band to sound like they did on Core, and that won’t happen. The sound is very much in line with the eponymous 2010 album with strong flavors of 1997’s Tiny Music, effectively capturing the haze and hard rock combo mentioned above that no other STP-related project (Talk Show, Army Of Anyone, Velvet Revolver) has been able to pull off.

Admittedly, “Meadow” was not a great choice for a single and is one of the duller songs here, so hats off to whatever genius thought that was a good idea. Far better is the swaggering “Roll Me Under,” the Aerosmith-inspired “Never Enough,” the ballad “Thought She’d Be Mine” and the rollicking “Six Eight”; these four make up the middle of the album and the strongest section. Fans may be divided over “The Art Of Letting Go,” a country/pop ballad meshed with a John Mayer-esque guitar solo and an overall sound close to “Lady Picture Show” from Tiny Music, but Gutt’s pure singing carries the tune and it’s a nice departure for the band.

There are a few latter-day STP-by-numbers scattered, like “Good Shoes” and “Guilty,” and the closing “Reds & Blues” tries for a latent acoustic Zeppelin vibe but doesn’t quite catch hold. However, the most poignant moment is on the musically mediocre but emotionally resonant “Finest Hour,” where Gutt channels the DeLeos and Kretz in his tribute to Weiland: “You never said Goodbye / It left a void that's like no other … Behind your eyes there lied a war / I never thought you'd be another…I won't forget that smile / It was contagious like no other…Up to the sky, I'll miss you, brother.”

The larger issue with STP is in how it eschews the heaviness of the past for a modern streamlined pop-rock sound. Although the band has sounded like this for some time, many fans still cling to the image of “Plush” and both Core and Purple as the defining STP releases, and those were heavy hard rock albums whose sound is just not found here. These songs are good – very good, in some cases – but there’s nothing as epic as “Wicked Garden,” as bracingly heavy as “Sex Type Thing,” as pop-smart as “Interstate Love Song,” as compelling as “Atlanta,” as off-kilter as “And So I Know” or “Big Bang Baby.”

You have to take this current STP on its own terms, and your willingness to do so will dictate how you feel about this album. Strip away your expectations of what a legacy act should sound like, knowing that your heroes can’t make the same album over and over, and you’ll find the heart and sound of Stone Temple Pilots is a pretty good, albeit low-key, rock album. It’s the sound of a band moving forward after losing a brother.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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