Monday, May 24, 2010

Album Review: Stone Temple Pilots

I must preface this review by saying I was a big fan of Stone Temple Pilots back in their heyday. The fact that the critics hated them, writing them off as derivative and second-rate only made me more entrenched in my view. Rather than being a grunge band I always considered them a heavy pop band, and a good one at that. Having been on hiatus they have regrouped and released a self-titled album.

In my view, calling an album after the band itself is best done on the debut album. They will dress it up as ‘back to basics’ but as far as I’m concerned it just shows a lack of imagination. Some will say the music is more important but with the best bands it’s about the complete package, the title, the cover art and the music. The cover is pretty uninspiring really.

As for the album itself, first track Between the Lines shows an admirable energy, bursting out of the speakers with considerable oomph. The riff between chorus and verse has a kind of Nirvana feel to it. Take A Load Off is one of those midpaced rockers with a choppy Dean DeLeo riff, which the band excelled at back in their prime. This one is a little reminiscent of Interstate Love Song, though it’s let down somewhat by singer Scott Weiland’s bland vocals.

Weiland’s vocals are a little smoothed out over the course of the whole album, but worse are his lyrics which are really quite lazy (one example “yeah it’s alright as we mosey on into the night”, and later: “awright awright awright come awn”). The sound of the album is a little smooth, I would have liked a little fuzz, a little distortion on the guitars but this has all been smoothed away, leaving the album sounding a little generic. Indeed some songs are alarmingly throwaway, Cinnamon and Bagman being the worst offenders, the former being a little cringey with a cheesy riff and vocal, and the latter apeing the Batman theme tune.

Weiland’s vocal on Huckleberry Crumble has traces of Alice in Chains to it, and the song is an agreeable stomper, while Hickory Dichotomy sounds kind of like David Bowie speak-singing a Led Zeppelin-esque groove which threatens not to work but the band just about pull it off. Dare If You Dare has a decent verse and chorus structure, let down by the lyrics but it boasts a singalong poppy tune. It’s light years from 1992’s Core.

Fast As I Can is a definite improvement, sounding a bit like a sped up Tumble in the Rough (off Tiny Music), with a busy riff and a rasping vocal delivery from Weiland. First Kiss On Mars is a mid-paced chugalong but is a little unremarkable, while closer Maver is a fairly atypical song for Stone Temple Pilots with piano and banjo. I can’t quite place which American band it reminds me of.
If this album had been a little heavier it might have worked better. There’s nothing wrong with the quality of the musicianship, and perhaps the songs will grow on me over time but at the moment this reformation falls short of expectations.