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Stone Temple Pilots Albums Ranked Worst To Best

by Benjamin Ray

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This column was co-authored by Benjamin Ray and Pete Crigler.... but since our site architecture doesn't currently allow for co-authored pieces, and Ben took the lead on this one, all Pete gets in the way of credit is this little footnote up front... sorry, dude.]

With the release of their second self-titled album in 2018, STP roared back to life with a new singer and something to say. It was the continuation of a band who came to prominence in the early 1990s, one that rose up from the hard rock ranks of southern California but was lumped in with the “grunge” movement by myopic critics. The band became famous for their mix of psychedelic, swirling hard rock and pop smarts, though the antics and addictions of singer Scott Weiland soon overshadowed the music, and the band called it quits in 2003. Two aborted comeback attempts happened between then and the new album, which finds Jeff Gutt now fronting the group. This ranking will count down the band’s seven studio albums and one EP from least to most essential.

stonetemple_highrise_150 8. High Rise (EP) (2013)

The third attempt to record with someone other than Scott Weiland (Talk Show, Army of Anyone) also is the first under the STP name and was a way to test the waters with new singer Chester Bennington, on temporary hiatus from Linkin Park. The pairing was a good fit for a while, but the music never made it past some live shows and this EP and Bennington returned to Linkin Park until his untimely death a few years later. The EP remains an interesting side project for all musicians involved but, aside from “Black Heart” and “Out of Time,” doesn’t mine enough new territory to make it compelling listening.

7. Shangri-La Dee Da (2001)stonetemple_shangri

The final original album from the band before Weiland’s (first) departure to join Velvet Revolver is also the weakest. The songs ranged from straight pop (“Days Of The Week,” which caused a near-revolt among fans upon its release) to a bevy of acoustic-guitar numbers to lesser entries in the psych-hard rock genre mined far more successfully on No. 4. Overall, the songwriting is just less interesting or memorable, especially on the second half of the disc; certainly, “Bi-Polar Bear,” “Transmissions From  A Lonely Room,” “Regeneration” and “Long Way Home” have to be among the band’s dullest songs. A new father at the time, Weiland manages to get in some truly lovely ballads with “A Song For Sleeping” and “Hello It’s Late,” while the snarling “Hollywood Bitch” and the Courtney Love kiss-off “Too Cool Queenie” suggest the band still had some gas. But it’s not enough to recommend the record; basically the sound of a band on autopilot, cranking out songs because they had to.

stonetemplepilots_st2018_150 6. Stone Temple Pilots (2018)

Losing two singers would be enough to sink most bands, but the DeLeo brothers (and Eric Kretz) had been held captive by singer drama for far too long and opted to press on with a new singer. Jeff Gutt sounds a bit like Weiland but never imitates him, which allows the music to come forward. There are no great leaps forward from anything the band had done since No. 4 19 years prior, but as a consolidation of modern strengths, STP is a fine rock record.

5. Stone Temple Pilots (2010)stonetemplepilots_st_150

Weiland’s return to the band after 7 years is triumphant, eschewing the meanderings of Shangri-La Dee Da for a set of straight-ahead hard rock-pop tunes with only a hint of the abject weirdness of days gone by. The band sounds as inspired by its own catalog as it does by Aerosmith and what Weiland had been doing with Velvet Revolver. “Huckleberry Crumble” and “Between the Lines” bring the swagger, “Dare If You Dare” and “Hazy Daze” bring the swirling, all-encompassing psychedelic sound back around, “Cinnamon” brings an unabashed pop-rock sound that needs no apology and “First Kiss On Mars” is one of the band’s coolest slow songs and the last gasp of Weiland’s creativity . If it runs out of steam at the end, STP shows this quartet could still make magic when Weiland was up for it.

stonetemple_tinymusic 4. Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop (1996)

And then things got weird. The record that first got me (Pete) hooked onto this band was definitely a different one. Moving away from the hard rock that had defined the first two albums, the band here got creative and ambitious, adding dimension to their sound with layers and a new approach to songwriting. Weiland’s vocals even sounded more gravelly which only added to the weirdness. The pop tendencies grew a bit, and the hard rock was still there (“Tumble In The Rough,” “Pop’s Love Suicide,” (a personal fave), “Tripping On A Hole In A Paper Heart”), but on the expansive “Adhesive,” the lovely, understated “And So I Know,” the underrated psych-pop tune “Lady Picture Show” and the tuneful instrumental “Daisy,” the band showed it was capable of much more than critics gave them credit for.

3. No. 4 (1999)stonetemple_4

After Tiny Music and Weiland’s weirdo solo album, the band got back to its strengths with No. 4, a lean, muscular hard rock effort with a brace of killer songs. “Down” and “Heaven and Hot Rods” are a brutal one-two opening punch, “Sour Girl” was one of the last great songs of the ‘90s with its trippy feel, “No Way Out” and “Glide” are very good album tracks and “Atlanta” was an acoustic, string-laden tune with hints of the Doors unlike anything else in the band’s discography. A couple weak tracks keep this from ascending higher, but this was the last truly great album the band made.

stonetemple_purple 2. Purple (1994)

One of the great alt-rock albums in a year chock-full of them, Purple not only built on the greatness of Core but expanded on it by creating an immersive sonic world. A swirling haze seems to envelop all of the tracks, a murderer’s row of classic songs like “Vasoline,” the pop-friendly “Interstate Love Song” and the expansive, epic “Big Empty.” Even the album tracks are among the band’s strongest songs, like “Meatplow,” the frantic “Unglued,” the lovely “Still Remains,” the full on punch of “Lounge Fly” and the all-acoustic “Pretty Penny,” which got some airplay on college rock stations simply because it was different from the normal hard-rock swirl. One of the more exceptional sophomore albums of the alternative rock boom.

1. Core (1992)stonetemple_core

Without question the band’s finest hour, right out of the gate. Although the success of hard rock (“grunge”) bands like Pearl Jam in 1991 may have given Core more exposure than it normally would have received, it nevertheless stands on its own as a singular hard rock effort that has aged better than many of its peers. Scott Weiland had yet to develop the off-kilter lyrics and stage persona that would come to the fore later, and the band was not yet lost in the psychedelic and pop aspects of its sound, so on track after track Core delivers blistering alt-rock. The highlights are numerous – “Sex Type Thing,” the crushing “Dead & Bloated,” “Wicked Garden,” “Crackerman,” “Naked Sunday” and the acoustic “Creep” are atop any fan’s Top 10 list – while the majestic, Grammy-winning “Plush” showed a maturity in sound and approach that the band rarely equaled going forward. If a couple of the tracks are lesser entries (“Sin,” “Where the River Goes,” “Piece of Pie”), they still fit the overall feel and flow of this record. Once you start listening, it’s hard to stop; simply a near masterpiece of a debut record.

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