In the nine years that have passed since last we heard from recently reunited arena alt-rock giants Stone Temple Pilots, all four original members have kept themselves busy. Singer Scott Weiland had a successful run as singer for supergroup Velvet Revolver (featuring members of Guns N’ Roses) for two albums and released his second solo record (in 2008), while the DeLeo brothers (guitarist Dean and bassist Robert) had a milder sense of achievement with supergroup Army of Anyone, featuring Richard Patrick of Filter as lead singer and Ray Luzier (lately of Korn) behind the kit.
Drummer Eric Kretz mainly worked behind the scenes at his L.A.-based Bomb Shelter Studios, mixing and engineering tracks for a varied list of acts, including Fu Manchu, Damian Marley, Slayer, and Death Cab For Cutie, and also San Francisco rock band Spiral Arms, whom he also reportedly played with.
After reuniting for select shows in 2008, the band, with Weiland focused and drug-free, wrote, recorded and produced its sixth album, simply self-titled (Stone Temple Pilots) last year, finished it up in early 2010, and released it May 25 on Atlantic Records.
Number one rock single “Between The Lines” is the heaviest track on the new disc (drop-d tuning), but it doesn’t have the overdriven sound of (1992) debut album Core and instead has a ‘60s pop/rock vibe to it. You can also spot in the bridge a little resemblance to Nirvana’s “Stay Away” in the vocals. And it all makes for an excellent choice for an album opener and lead single.
True maximum hard rock riffage can be found on “Hazy Daze,” which finds Weiland contrasting the pleasantness of this album highlight with unhappy lyrics, largely about his father.
“Huckleberry Crumble” channels the band’s inner Aerosmith, “Same Old Song And Dance” in particular, while “First Kiss On Mars” sees Weiland sound amazingly and exactly like his hero David Bowie. In fact, you’d hard pressed not to think this is actually the legendary English singer making a cameo here upon first listen. And that isn’t the only noticeable Bowie-esque moment on the disc, as Dean DeLeo’s (‘90s side project) Talk Show-era composition “Dare If You Dare” practically makes you want to sing out "All The Young Dudes, carry the news” every time the chorus comes.
Unfortunately, it’s not all solid gold on the new album’s 12 tracks. “Bagman” and “Peacoat” have their moments but aren’t terribly remarkable tunes, while “Hickory Dichotomy” finds Scott really trying to be someone other than himself, sounding more like Lou Reed (during the verses). Problem is, there’s only one Lou Reed. But the musical arrangement of this track is fun and more digestible than the vocals, with its driving, staccato rhythm-based and country-edged guitars and DeLeo’s lively, killer slide solo, all pretty much done within the standard verse-chorus-verse format.
Along with the swaying album closer “Maver,” where Weiland’s voice sounds as strong as ever, “Cinnamon” is the most immediately infectious of all the tracks on the new album, with its Joy Division/New Order-like rhythmic verses, before trailing off to more sugar poppy territory for the refrains. More surprising than the fact that STP can actually pull off a song as Brit pop-flavored as this is that (bassist/backup vocalist) Robert wrote the music, guitar solo and all (though Dean performed said solo on the album). You get the feeling that one of these days, Robert is eventually going to grab a guitar full-time and bust out for a solo album of his own.
The new self-titled album has had a lot of heavy promotion over the last several weeks, and not just on modern rock radio. In fact, many STP songs were featured during ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball game of the week practically every Sunday night in May. Clips included new tunes such as the aforementioned “Cinnamon” and fast paced rocker “Fast As I Can,” as well as classics like Purple album standout “Unglued.”
The quartet also performed "Between The Lines" on The Late Show With David Letterman a few days before the album’s release. And just this past week, all the buzz surrounding STP seemed to pay off as its brand new disc debuted #2 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Is all the hype and early success surrounding STP’s reunion album deserved? For a healthy majority of it, most definitely. With only a few skipable moments, the new self-titled album represents a welcomed but not exactly unexpected return to form, where guitars crunch one minute, then glide back for shinier, memorable moments and melodies the next.
The band has never released a bad album, but in terms of repeat-worthy tracks, this new one builds and is a definite improvement upon STP’s last release, 2001’s Shangri-La Dee Da. 1994’s Purple is still its best album, but depending on whether you prefer their heavier or lighter material, or both, you can add this new one to the debate about what Stone Temple Pilots’ other top albums are.
Check out this link for the Stone Temple Pilots video for “Between The Lines.”