Elegant Bachelors

A Stone Temple Pilots Song Countdown

by Benjamin Ray


I was a bit of a latecomer to the alt-rock scene of the ’90s, having not been allowed to listen to much of it in my home. We were raised on classic rock but only occasionally was more modern stuff tolerated, so it wasn’t until high school in 1997 that I started to sneak listens to the current rock of the day (Korn, Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, etc.) and only occasionally catch a glimpse of what had come earlier in the decade. But as my horizons grew—and as downloading of music became a huge thing right as I was entering college—I began to discover just how much great music I had missed in the first half of the decade, and Stone Temple Pilots was atop that list.

The southern California group got their start at the same time as most other “grunge,” groups but their debut wasn’t released until 1992; because of this timing, and the surface similarities to some Seattle bands of the day, Stone Temple Pilots never got much critical respect. But fans knew better, buying copies of the stellar debut Core and the even better follow-up Purple. Three more albums and a myriad of legal troubles for singer Scott Weiland followed; he left the group in 2003 to front Velvet Revolver for a while, only to return in 2010 for one album, get fired, and then pass away in December 2015.

Weiland was the live wire frontman of the band, a dynamic Morrison-like lizard with glam rock appeal and hard rock smarts, but the band wouldn’t have worked without the DeLeo brothers (Robert on bass and main songwriting, and Dean on guitar). The three, plus drummer Eric Kretz, created fine hard rock with flavors of psychedelia, pop and glam, sounding like little else at the time, despite what critics said. Once Weiland passed and the band waited an appropriate time to mourn, they recruited a new singer (Jeff Gutt) and released two new albums, though it remains to be seen if 2020’s acoustic Perdida is their final bow or if any of Robert DeLeo’s “new ideas” come together for a continuation of their second chapter, as he hinted in November 2022 after the release of his solo album.

This list counts down all of the songs from the band’s eight studio albums plus a couple of necessary outliers, ranked from worst to best in this listener’s opinion. I have listened to these songs many times, ever since I discovered “Wicked Garden” all those years ago, and I always come back to STP regardless of where I am in life.

103. “Wet My Bed,” Core: I understand the need to transition out of the regal “Plush” and into something else, but this annoying piss take was the worst possible choice, and I don’t know how it made it out of the drunken stupor in which it was recorded and onto the actual album.

102. “Press Play,” Tiny Music:
Not really a song in this version, just a cheerful instrumental snippet that eases the listener into the band’s weirdest album.

101. “My Second Album,” Purple:
Listeners confused by the cake on the album that said 12 Gracious Melodies, but only saw 11 songs on the tracklist, soon figured it out when the last song ended and this hidden track appeared. It’s an elaborate joke, played as a lounge song and sung by Seattle street musician Richard Peterson, absolutely straight, in his best Tom Jones impersonation. It’s way too long for what it is, but it’s stupid fun (I suspect more so for the band than anyone else).

100. “Art School Girl,” Tiny Music:
He’s got a girlfriend, she goes to art school. That’s it. Repeat for three minutes. Easily the most irritating song of any era of the band, ever, and on the running for worst song of 1997 (and I include “Tubthumping” and “Wannabe” on that list). Unless the goal was to make fun of the worst of Steve Miller’s songwriting, in which case, this succeeds.

99. “You Found Yourself While Losing Your Heart,” Perdida:
Sounds like a U2 song title, right? It’s difficult to rank the songs off this album because they all blur together in a slow gray acoustic haze, but the best ones have some sort of melodic flair, and this one doesn’t really have one.

98-96. “Finest Hour,” “Good Shoes,” “Reds & Blues,” STP (2018):
This triptych of songs closes out the band’s second self-titled album, and first with new singer Jeff Gutt, with a thud. Not that they’re bad; there’s really no bad songs in the STP oeuvre except for “Art School Girl,” of course. But they didn’t really need to be recorded, and they’re nobody’s favorite, and they just pad out the album.

95. “I Didn’t Know The Time,” Perdida:
You may find yourself checking your watch at this point in the album when this moody ballad comes on.

94. “Bi-Polar Bear,” Shangri-La Dee Da:
A dull acoustic ballad, evidently serving as the template for Perdida many years later, and eliciting little more than a shrug and a snicker at the stupid title.

93. “No Memory,” Core:
Not really a song, more of a separate short instrumental. A cool sound, but it’s effectively only a lead-in for “Sin.”

92. “Transmissions From A Lonely Room,”
A blur of psychedelic midtempo rock that goes nowhere and fades from memory immediately.

91-90. “Same On the Inside” and “Tomorrow,” High Rise:
I swear these are the same song. The band released an EP with former Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington in 2013 as an attempt to move forward after Weiland’s death; it had potential on some tracks, but not these two,

89. “First Kiss On Mars,” STP (2010):
A Bowie homage, I suppose, but it ends up as an homage to his more dull later work (think hours…) and doesn’t generate the fire or emotion that it should. Side note: How did the Red Hot Chili Peppers not think of that song title first?

88. “Daisy,” Tiny Music:
An odd little instrumental tucked away at the end of the album, just over two minutes, and possessing an odd charm of its own.

87. “I Once Sat At Your Table,” Perdida: An
instrumental, and without the lyrics or any twists in the song, it just pleasantly fades away.

86. “Just A Little Lie,” STP (2018):
The first misstep on the album after a strong opening trio, it’s a slice of generic STP and nothing more.

85. “Cry Cry,” High Rise:
Bennington and the band parted ways amicably not long after this EP came out; I think they both realized it wasn’t a great fit. But in Bennington’s defense, the DeLeos’ songs weren’t their strongest around this time, leaving this EP as a curio.

84. “Never Enough,” STP (2018):
Boilerplate STP, but good solo.

83. “Maver,” STP (2010):
A ho-hum album closer.

82. “Samba Nova,” STP (2010):
On certain versions of this album, this one actually followed “Maver” as the true album closer, and like its title it adds elements of bossa nova and samba to a pleasant, understated melody and Weiland’s falsetto. It’s fine and eloquent; it’s also the final recorded moment with Weiland and the band, as he was fired shortly after this album came out.

81. “Ride The Cliché,” Tiny Music:
An onslaught of sound and a psychedelic but pointless chorus doom this one to blah status.

80. “I Got You,” No. 4:
A rare moment of subtlety on the album, but undone by its country-fried leanings and repetition of the title.

79. “Three Wishes,” Perdida:
As noted, it’s difficult to review the songs from this album because they are all so similar. This is one that just blends into the gray murk.

78. “Black Heart,” High Rise:
See #85.

77. “She’s My Queen,” Perdida:
A sort-of country ballad, but with very little fire or emotion.

76. “Bagman,” STP (2010):
Tries for some Aerosmith-style attitude, I think, but can’t quite pull it off.

75. “Thought She’d Be Mine,” STP (2018):
A lesser entry from the album.

74. “Peacoat,” STP (2010):
As good as STP’s 2010 comeback album was, it really falls off in quality at the halfway point. When people think of that album, the first half is what they remember. Songs like this are why.

73. “Seven Caged Tigers,” Tiny Music:
The verses are fine but the chorus never did anything for me. About the best part is the George Harrison-style guitar solo that Dean busts out halfway through.

72. “Years,” Perdida:
Painfully slow, but there’s an air of regret and, oddly, a sort of yacht pop feel to it; imagine a blend of Christopher Cross and Bob Welch-era Fleetwood Mac. I think that’s an oboe solo too.

71. “Sex And Violence,” No. 4:
Kind of like “Army Ants,” it’s a brief blast of power chords and punk energy that clears the decks for the end of its album. Doesn’t really stand on its own, but as part of the flow of this album, it’s fine.

70. “Regeneration,” Shangri-La Dee Da:
There were times on the fifth album that it felt like the band was nearing its end, simply due to the lack of truly great songs, and this plodding rocker felt like filler. Decent filler, mind you, but hardly to the level of previous filler.

69. “Fare Thee Well,” Perdida
: Not a great choice for first single off the album, but it’s clearly sung with heart by Jeff Gutt. Some read it as a goodbye to Weiland, others to any loved one (especially when you’re gone for a long time).

68. “Pop’s Love Suicide,” Tiny Music:
It’s still STP on the third album, but the sound and approach is looser, weirder, less expansive. There are songs where this definitely worked on the album, but this is probably the lesser of them; it’s more about style over substance here.

67. “All In The Suit That You Wear,” Spider-Man soundtrack:
This was a bigger deal when it came out during the release of the movie, and then again on the Thank You compilation, but it hasn’t really held up as a band classic. It’s fun, though.

66-65. “Dumb Love” and “Long Way Home,”
Shangri-La Dee Da: The guitar crunch is still there as it was on No. 4 but it’s in service of a lunkheaded riff and a lack of melody. These two songs bookend an otherwise decent and varied album.

64. “Roll Me Under,” STP (2018):
Falls into the same sonic soup as much of Velvet Revolver and Audioslave’s work.

63. “Army Ants,” Purple:
About the only misstep on the album, it’s a lot of sound and fury in want of a better song.

62. “Out of Time,” High Rise:
The only song on this EP with a real pulse, and a glimpse into why both parties thought this union could work. The rest of the EP didn’t bear that out, and as noted, Bennington left only two years after this came out. But this song is worth hearing if you haven’t.

61. “Miles Away,” Perdida:
A rare moment of life on this album, a waltz with a Russian feel to it and some great singing from the Gutt. It’s songs like this that remind you the DeLeos were never grunge copycats and were inspired by—and willing to try—many different genres. True fans know this.

60. “The Art Of Letting Go,” STP (2018):
Musically not exciting, but up so high because Gutt sings the absolute hell out of the chorus. This might be his best moment on an STP record so far, to be honest.

59-58. “Pruno” and “Church On Tuesday,” No. 4:
Two of the lesser entries on the album, letdowns after the powerful opening tracks on the album, but still roaring psych-rock fun. Clearly the band was happy to be back recording again, and free from the drug-fueled trips and clutter of Tiny Music.

57. “Guilty,” STP (2018):
Still generic, but fun and loose.

56. “Coma,” Shangri-La Dee Da:
Roars in, makes noise, and leaves quickly, like a toddler doing an impression of a T-Rex while taking a poop in his diaper. When it’s over, you’re not sure what just happened, but you think it was entertaining for a while.

55. “Only Dying,” Core bonus track/Mighty Joe Young demo:
Before they were ST and motherfucking P, they were Mighty Joe Young, until they realized there was a bluesman with the same name and switched things up. The MJY demo is interesting, without about half the songs later appearing on Core and elements that would later appear on other songs, and then this cut, which was left off any official band release and didn’t pop up until after the deluxe edition of Core was released a couple years ago. It’s slow, with a woe-is-me vibe that’s not really akin to the rest of the band’s music, and the bridge is highly incomplete, but it’s a fascinating little piece of adolescent drama and integral to the band’s history, as they learned to incorporate drama into their songwriting.

54-53. “Take A Load Off” and “Fast As I Can,” STP (2010):
Breezy gut-punch rockers. Not much else to say. They’re solid and fun.

52. “Hollywood Bitch,” Shangri-La Dee Da:
Decent riff and a nasty vocal, as petty as Weiland ever got, though it’s unclear if this is about someone specific or just vapid celebrities.

51-50. “Cinnamon” and “Days Of The Week,” STP (2010) and Shangri-La Dee Da:
Breezy pop-rock. Sometimes people forget these guys had pop smarts too, but it wasn’t mimicry, just part of their sound.

49. “Dare If You Dare,” STP (2010):
Noisy in the verses, but then giving way to a Bowie-inspired chorus where Weiland switches to his falsetto and then repeats the title. It’s very effective and bumps this song up much higher than the verses warrant.

48. “MC5,” No. 4:
Not really related to the band of the same name, and another one of those “Army Ants”-like blasts of dumb heat.

47. “Sin,” Core:
Naysayers in the early days wrongly considered this great band a ripoff of the grunge scene. I grant you that Core is of its time, but its best songs still stand the test of time, as we will discuss later. But there were a handful of times that STP could fall into generic alt-rock patterns of the time, and this is one of them. It’s good, but not to the level of the other songs around it.

46. “Dancing Days,” Encomium:
The band’s entry on the Zeppelin tribute, oddly enough, goes for acoustic instead of electric; I suspect that was partly a rebuff to critics who dismissed them so heavily. DeLeo finds a different dimension to approach the song and it’s quite effective. (See also the band’s acoustic version of “Andy Warhol,” the Bowie track from Hunky Dory, if you’re so inclined).

45. “Wonderful,” Shangri-La Dee Da:
STP had gone acoustic before, but never so much all in one album and not again until Perdida. This is probably the weakest of the acoustic songs on the album, although Weiland sings it well.

44. “Too Cool Queenie,” Shangri-La Dee Da:
Weiland’s kiss-off to Courtney Love, though he never publicly said so. “There was this boy, he played in a rock and roll band / And he wasn’t half bad at saving the world / She said he could do no right, so he took his life,” followed by “And now this girl, yeah, she got real famous / And she made lots of money, and some of his too / But still she thinks she can do no wrong / Just playing those songs / She's all too cool.”

43. “Six Eight,” STP (2018):
It doesn’t seem like it at first, but this is the most Tiny Music-like song the band had released since that album. There is a lot going on here in just 3:32, the song taking twists and turns and piles of noise and an ambition that the rest of this album would have done well to follow.

42. “Glide,” No. 4:
See #46, to be honest. It’s the same approach, but longer, and it fits well into the album.

41. “Kitchenware And Candybars,” Purple:
This one always confused me a little. It starts off very slow, then pivots into an equally slow but much louder part, and then there’s strings and a solo, and then it ends in four minutes. But it has a personality and presence.

40. “Hazy Daze,” STP (2010):
A snarling rocker worth your time.

39. “Black Again,” Shangri-La Dee Da:
Only a shade better than “Wonderful” because of its multi-tracked layered vocals all over the song.

38. “Hello, It’s Late,” Shangri-La Dee Da:
And only a shade better than “Black Again” because of Weiland’s soulful singing and the overall acoustic low-key vibe of the song.

37. “Perdida,” Perdida:
Lovely, slow flamenco guitar and a regretful melancholy make the title track one of the best on its album and give Gutt a chance to show off his range.

36. “Atlanta,” No. 4:
The most Doors-sounding track of the band’s career; it plays nicely and ends, but then comes back in with a second half that swells to a climax and then a whistled outro. It’s a fitting album closer and a fine song.

35. “Meadow,” STP (2018):
Solid rocker with a chugging riff and some attitude, among the best Gutt-era tracks.

34. “Hickory Dichotomy,” STP (2010):
An obvious Aerosmith ripoff, but Weiland was no Steven Tyler, and the mimicry falls flat in the verses. The chorus is good and the guitars are all over the place, but the real star of the song is Kretz, who drums his face off.

33. “Sunburst,” Perdida:
The closing cut on the album is its best song, tying together all the themes of the album in an immersive, sprawling six-and-a-half-minute opus that brings hope to a new day after the melancholy that preceded it.

32. “Silvergun Superman,” Purple:
Not quite the triumph of the other songs on the disc, but an effective slice of alt-rock nonetheless.

31. “No Way Out,” No. 4:
A nasty riff and spacy interludes fuel this slab of nu-metal, which always felt to me like the band trying to keep up with Korn (even down to the repeated cursing) and falling just short.

30. “Pretty Penny,” Purple:
An acoustic port in the storm of the album, an introspective number about someone Weiland and/or the band new and a family tragedy that occurred. It’s a definite step forward in sound and style for the band, and it wouldn’t have fit on any other album.

29. “Between The Lines,” STP (2010):
After nine years and a Velvet Revolver detour, Weiland rejoined the band and they roared back to life with some great songs; many of them evoked a past of classic rock, bypassing grunge and alt-rock completely, as if Core had never happened. When it worked, as on this opening cut and first single, it was excellent.

28. “Still Remains,” Purple:
A fan favorite, mostly because of the line “If you should die before me / Ask if you can bring a friend.” I never put it up to that level, but I admit it’s earnest and heartfelt, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

27. “Adhesive,” Tiny Music:
Willfully slow and spacious, allowing Kretz to drive the song with his jazzy drumming and only the barest of guitar (and occasional horns) to fill the space between the power chords that start each stanza. Weiland sings with subtlety and grace, and yet there’s a tension in the song that only gets resolved at the end.

26. “And So I Know,” Tiny Music:
The other slow song on the album is a radical departure from anything the band had done, with a dream-like quality and obtuse lyrics about fleeting summer love (references to campfire girls, rollercoasters, and long grass…and also floating graves, for some reason). It’s hard to classify this one…it’s not psychedelic rock, it’s not pop, it’s not lounge, it’s not jazz, and yet it’s all four at the same time.

25. “A Song For Sleeping,” Shangri-La Dee Da:
Call me a sap, but this simple acoustic track is a lovely ode from a father to a son. It’s Weiland, the dad, the man, no airs or megaphones or bullshit. It makes you miss the guy.

24. “Middle Of Nowhere,” STP (2018):
Hooky, fun, should have been a single instead of “Roll Me Under.” The band was firmly entrenched in the sound debuted on the eponymous 2010 album – with a lot of miles between it and, say, Purple—but songs like this showed a new chapter was possible. Unfortunately, the band hasn’t really capitalized on this since 2018, with their only other album since then the all-acoustic Perdida in 2020.

23. “Huckleberry Crumble,” STP (2010):
Another Aerosmith homage from this album, a kind of rewrite of “Same Old Song And Dance” but amped up and rollicking with a sneer.

22. “Dead And Bloated,” Core:
The song that introduced STP to the world is a chunky slab of murky grunge, very much indebted to Alice In Chains, and not fully indicative of the band’s range. As noted, critics in the day piled on to STP’s copycat sound and raked them over the coals, which is highly unfair, but with a song like this one can sort of see their point. It’s a good song, but just short of a top song in the discography.

21. “Lounge Fly,” Purple:
There’s a haze that permeates this song, with ringing guitars and Kretz’s light-on-his-feet drumming enveloping the listener. The chorus of the song came from a different earlier song on the MJY demo, but it fits better here.

20-19. “Tumble In The Rough” and “Big Bang Baby,” Tiny Music:
Efficient, hooky rockers, in which DeLeo dials back the guitar crunch for a more trebly, punkish approach, and Kretz nimbly follows suit.

18. “Where The River Goes,” Core:
The epic album closer, lasting well over eight minutes and virtually unchanged from the demo version. It takes guts to end one’s debut album with a song this long, but its confidence is earned.

17-16. “Heaven And Hot Rods” and “Down,” No. 4:
The band roared out of the gate on No. 4 like they had something to prove, and the one-two opening punch is among their best, rivaled only by Purple. “Heaven” is a coiled ball of hard rock energy, but with that patented psychedelic-rock chorus (and another callout to “the dogs,” which makes me think of “Plush,” even if accidentally). The very heavy “Down,” meanwhile, was nominated for a Grammy, and immediately established that a sober Weiland was still a force to be reckoned with.

15. “Piece Of Pie,” Core:
Another song from the MJY demo barely changed, nor did it need to be, as its punchy aggression and slithery glam is STP in their purest form. You may not notice it at first, but check out Robert DeLeo’s bass sound in the background next time you hear it.

14. “Creep,” Core:
A bit of a dirge at times, but with one of the band’s most memorable choruses: “I’m half the man I used to be / This I feel as the dawn it fades to gray.” The emo alt-rock kid in you still feels all the feelings when this song comes on.

13. “Meatplow,” Purple:
As noted earlier on “Lounge Fly,” there’s more of a glam-rock haze through the second album, making it easy to get lost in. The guitars have lost none of their crunch, but the band also has found their own sound, ditching any notions of “copycat” from the first album and settling into something uniquely theirs. There’s a noisy solo in this one, and that final chord is a killer sendoff.

12. “Tripping On A Hole In A Paper Heart,” Tiny Music:
Features the iconic chorus “I’m not dead and I’m not for sale,” which later became the title of Weiland’s autobiography, and is a killer slice of alt-pop and the second best song on its album. The layers and textures are unlike any previous STP song, and in only three minutes it does its job very well.

11. “Lady Picture Show,” Tiny Music:
STP was bound to veer into experimentation on their third album; it’s an honored tradition. But where some bands of the alt-rock era went much longer or louder on their third albums (Dave Matthews, AIC, Pumpkins, Oasis), STP went edgier and tighter while also developing a softer, more vulnerable side only hinted at before. The middle section of the album is excellent, anchored by the previous song and this one, a melodic, Beatles-inspired pop-rocker that is among the best songs they ever did.

10. “Unglued,” Purple:
A raucous, face-melting rocker just over two minutes long. Not sure what else needs to be said. It’s excellent.

9. “Sour Girl,” No. 4:
This song was a hit when it came out, but it also divided a lot of fans; some really dug its more mellow vibe and acoustic sound, others missed the hard rock (nu-metal was all the rage in 1999). The former camp is the right one, because this song is excellent. Led by an acoustic guitar, DeLeo then weaves in an electric for shading, but the vocal harmonies are the true star here. Weiland’s lyrics are personal, concerning the dissolution of his marriage. On stage, the band would bring a string quartet to further enhance the song, showing how far they’d come since 1992 as songwriters.

8. “Crackerman,” Core:
A favorite concert opener, and rightfully so, as it’s a surging blast of hard rock heat. Don’t listen to it while driving or you’ll find yourself driving 85 through a school zone.

7. “Vasoline,” Purple:
The first four songs on this album are so good and of a piece that it’s hard to pick one over the other, but I suppose this one gets the nod over “Meatplow” because of its chorus. The glam and psychedelic rock elements really came to the fore on the band’s second album, leading to a churning wash of sound that was unlike what other bands were doing at the time.

6. “Naked Sunday,” Core:
An anti-God yelp that really comes to life in the galloping chorus and guitar heroics, one of the band’s best album tracks that was never a hit.

5. “Plush,” Core:
A majestic, confident rocker that netted the band a Grammy; both the electric and acoustic versions were hits and both were found on the Thank You compilation. Some prefer one over the other; I’ve always felt the electric (album) version had more power, and the credit for that goes to Kretz’s spacious drums more so than DeLeo’s guitars.

4. “Interstate Love Song,” Purple:
One of rock’s great driving songs, right up there with “Radar Love” and the like, but for ’90s kids on a road trip. It’s wistful and yearning, showing pop smarts, a great riff, melodic depth and a Weiland vocal that already showed maturity from the debut.

3. “Wicked Garden,” Core:
A raging slice of psychedelic alt-rock that stands among the band’s best work. Ninety percent of it was already written on the MJY demo, one of those tracks that was a mishmash of various ideas that was brought together into an indelible (and melodic) whole.

2. “Big Empty,” Purple:
First premiered as an acoustic version on Unplugged, then appearing on the Crow movie soundtrack and Purple, this is akin to “Plush” in its expanse and soaring majesty in the chorus. The difference is the dynamics between said chorus and the quieter verses, which manage to somehow be ominous and playful; the real triumph, though, is when a second Weiland starts singing a half-step behind the second half of the chorus, leading into the “conversations kill” bridge portion to end both the second chorus and the song as a whole. It’s a display of self-confidence not often seen on a second album.

1. “Sex Type Thing,” Core:
The band’s first single remains their best and likely most controversial song, if you don’t know what it’s about. Weiland sung from the point of view of a macho asshole, taking inspiration from a girl he liked in school who was raped by some members of the football team. The lyrics are appropriately simplistic and juvenile, echoing “locker room talk” and men who view women as objects. Unfortunately, critics and some listeners didn’t get this (due to it being the first single, and still hung over from late-’80s schlock like Motley Crue and Poison) and thought that Weiland was glorifying such people. That, along with the critical thrashing of the California band as Seattle copycats, doomed them for a while; STP was simultaneously voted “best new band” by fans and “worst new band” by Rolling Stone in the same issue.

The fans understood what Weiland was going for. But more to the point, even if the lyrics caused controversy, the music did not. “Sex Type Thing” is DeLeo’s greatest riff, a descending, raucous Zeppelin-inspired slice of rock greatness; it was the song the band used to close many shows, including the 2000 House of Blues show on the No. 4 tour once Weiland was released from jail. There was also an attempt at times to turn this into a swing dance version, an attempt at irony that fell flat. The original, though, is as good a rock song as any from the decade.

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