Stone Temple Pilots never quite achieved the level of respect that they deserved. No, they weren’t particularly inventive – nor did they push many boundaries – but they were unfairly maligned by the music press as imitators, a stigma that followed them even as they switched styles from album to album.
Of course, these same critics argued that their gradual evolution (if you wish to call it that) was just another sign of their calculated attempts to cash in on whatever the latest fads were – assertions that didn’t make much sense when you considered the alienating Morrison/Bowie vibe going on throughout their last couple records arrived at a time when rap was beginning to dominate the charts, and alt-rock – let alone glam-and- Doors-inspired classic rock – were hardly “in.” I mean, at least Scott Weiland didn’t collaborate with Timbaland, right?
Although I’ve never been a huge fan of the group, there’s no denying their ability to write a great pop tune; their singles compilation from 2003, Thank You, which was (at the time) considered their departing gift to fans as they officially split, really showcased their inherent navigation of pop/rock radio.
So, ten years after their last album of original material, with all the members having since joined and ditched various respective supergroups, STP is back with an eponymous album. The Self-Titled Record used midway through a career is often perceived as a bold statement – whether you’re The Beatles or Metallica – so it’s just a bit disappointing that Stone Temple Pilots isn’t the most emblematic product of their work together, nor their most interesting. Then again, Weiland and co. have admitted numerous times they only reunited for million-dollar-paychecks, so it could have been much worse.
Most of the songs lean more towards Bowie, Aerosmith and Cheap Trick rather than Nirvana or Soundgarden – Weiland’s voice isn’t notably different from the last time we heard him in this band, and the DeLeo Brothers’ talents are still well on display.
As it stands, STP is a solid, fun, passably entertaining record – a strong enough comeback that probably won’t push millions of units or set the airwaves ablaze, but which will, for the most part, connect with their fans. Most of the songs suffer from the same flaw that Weiland’s last album with Velvet Revolver did: overly repetitious choruses. For this very reason, the more you play ‘em, the more endearing these songs become – lead single “Between the Lines” grew on me after about 2 – 3 spins – but at first it can be a tad bit annoying, especially when Scott’s engaging in strange vocal inflections (as on the sticky “Hickory Dichotomy,” which features lyrics as nonsensical as the singer wrote during the prime years of his heroin addictions).
So, there’s sticky pop and choppy rock and serviceable fun to be had here. Nothing mindblowing, but a couple tunes you might hear on alt-rock stations years from now along with “Big Empty” and “Sex Type Thing,” as well as a few eclectic tracks that you might see on obscure-leaning fan lists in the future with the likes of “Atlanta” and “Hello It’s Late.” And if you like any of those songs then you pretty much know what you’re getting here. If you don’t, you probably think they’re bandwagon-jumping imitators. Can’t please everybody.