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Stone Temple Pilots “Stone Temple Pilots” Review

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It has been nine years since the Stone Temple Pilots released Shangri-La Dee Da, the band’s fifth album which received a lukewarm reception and was quickly dismissed after its second single, “Hollywood Bitch,” failed to propel itself into “hit” territory. After talk of returning to the studio following the band’s 2002 tour flared up, tensions also peaked, erupting most notably with guitarist Dean DeLeo and vocalist Scott Weiland nearly coming to blows during the band’s last show of the year’s touring schedule.

In the coming years Weiland would join the bulk of Guns N’ Roses’ legacy members in Velvet Revolver for two successful records while also releasing his second solo album, and Dean and Robert DeLeo would pursue a new group with Ray Luzier and Filter’s Richard Patrick, Army of Anyone—though the “super group” would have as limited success as Talk Show, the brothers’ band with STP drummer Eric Kretz and Dave Coutts which released an album in 1997. But until a reconciliation in 2008 (subsequently following Weiland’s unceremonious exit from Velvet Revolver and Army of Anyone going on an “indefinite hiatus”) fans were left with a sour taste in their mouths and a curiosity for what could have been.

But after a massive reunion tour and an extended recording session it was announced that fans’ answers would be provided in the form of Stone Temple Pilots. And with the release of the band’s first single from the album, “Beneath The Lines,” it seemed as though STP had found redemption. While opening at the #40 position on Billboard’s Rock Songs chart, the track would make history by jumping to number two the next week, marking the largest single-week bump on the chart ever. The song would later reach number one, solidifying it as the band’s most successful single since “Sour Girl” which landed squarely in Billboard’s Hot 100, amongst a number of other charts, in 2000. “We’ve got our best record so far. I hope to have four or five more great records with this band,” Dean DeLeo explained recently in an interview with Music Radar. But aside from the success of the album’s breakout single, is the band’s eponymous release really their “best record so far”?

Not even close.

As Weiland croons in “Between The Lines,” “There ain’t no magic pen to get back what you lost.” And even if he’s not talking about the band here—it’s actually a love song, of sorts—he’s right. But in all fairness Stone Temple Pilots takes a musical direction which hasn’t honestly been explored in the band’s past: Classic rock, or at least as close to classic rock as STP might come. Where Tiny Music… had a lingering crush on grunge, No. 4 leaned on heavier riffs, and Shangri-La Dee Da worked in a psychedelic flavor, the band’s self-titled release greatly relies on a lot of familiar sounding riffs, harmonies, and melodies, although it still retains STP’s thumb print.

Following the record’s soaring second track, “Take A Load Off,” Stone Temple Pilots deliver the dirty stomper “Huckleberry Crumble” (there’s a classic rock title for you if I’ve ever heard one). Late in the song Dean DeLeo breaks out into a solo that embraces a bit of Southern-fried reminiscing which sounds as though he’s anticipating Steven Tyler to jump in over his head and bring a stadium-sized ’70s audience to their knees. But in the end Tyler never shows and the audience isn’t moved. “Hickory Dichotomy” and “Dare If You Dare” do little to impress and “Cinnamon” harvests vocals so unusually light that it’s hard to imagine them actually coming out of Scott Weiland’s mouth.

“Hazy Daze” opens with a fierce riff and has Weiland slithering in and winding himself around the song. Like “Huckleberry Crumble” it’s a solid track, and DeLeo jumps in with another enjoyable solo, but little is ultimately made of it and STP allows an opportunity to erupt go unrealised.

“Bagman” and “Peacoat” both coast by before “Fast As I Can” kicks in and revs up the pace of the album again; Weiland accompanying the track with a floating chorus that levels things out nicely. Channeling Bowie in both song title and vocal style, “First Kiss on Mars” kicks off with another crunchy riff. “Maver” follows but is largely unmemorable, and “Samba Nova” closes out the record (oops, sorry, I was working with a non-”standard” release, sorry) with a relaxed bongo that flows soothingly behind a wave of melody as the album winds down. Offering one of the few noticeable changes of pace throughout Stone Temple Pilots, “Samba Nova” sounds much like a suitable complement to 1996’s Tiny Music… opener, “Press Play.”

Stone Temple Pilots isn’t without its enjoyable moments, but for the majority of the record it unfortunately succumbs to classic rock syndrome: you can listen to an hour’s worth of enjoyable music, but very little of it actually stands out and leaves an impression. Stone Temple Pilots is a good enough album, but there are a lot of “good” bands out there & STP has the potential for so much more. Time will tell if the band’s members can stand each other long enough to make those four or five more albums DeLeo had in mind, but if the band’s self-titled release ends up being STP’s final album, they’re not exactly going out on a high note.