|Tuesday, October 26, 1999||
Volume 65, Issue 46
Concert Review: Better Than Ezra
|4's a charm
Stone Temple Pilots regroup in time to record best album to date
Stone Temple Pilots
By Ed De La Garza
From the beginning, Stone Temple Pilots have had to battle critics, egos and inner demons. They had the bad luck of releasing the debut Core in 1992, in the middle of the grunge era.
Comparisons to Pearl Jam weren't fair. The truth is the band, which owed its sound to the classic hard rock bands of the '70s, wasn't grunge.
Members of Stone Temple Pilots from left are: Scott Weiland, Eric Kretz, Dean DeLeo an dRobert DeLeo.
Core was followed by Purple in '94, an album which proved the members capable of writing catchy pop songs that still had the familiar STP punch. If there was any negative side to Purple, it was that the band seemed more concerned with writing another "Plush."
With Tiny Music ... songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, released in '96, the band finally found its own voice. The third album found a more assured band -- one that knew its strengths but wasn't afraid to experiment. Harder-edged songs such as "Pop Love Suicide," "Trippin' on a Hole with a Paper Heart," and "Ride the Cliché" were balanced by the pop hit "Big Bang Baby," the Beatles-inspired "Lady Picture Show" and the beautifully arranged "Adhesive."
But trouble has followed the band in the three years since it released Tiny Music. Singer Scott Weiland's ongoing struggle with drug addiction forced the group to cancel numerous concert dates that were in support of Tiny Music.
STP went on hiatus in 1998. While Bassist Robert DeLeo, guitarist Dean DeLeo and drummer Eric Kretz enlisted the aid of Dave Coutts to form a side-band named Talk Show, followed by a self-titled album, Weiland embarked on a solo project.
While Talk Show sounded like STP with a different singer, 12 Bar Blues, released in early '98, showed the troubled singer eager to showcase his talents. But again, arrests and rehabilitation stays halted Weiland's effort to promote the album. However, STP remained on good terms and finally returned to the recording studio in early '99 to record their fourth album, aptly titled No. 4.
With No. 4, the band's best to date, STP seems poised to reclaim part of its lost glory. The album sees the band going back to a harder sound not heard since its first album. The album gets your attention from the onset with "Down," the band's edgiest song since "Sex Type Thing."
Of the album's hardest songs, only "MC5," an ode to the Detroit '60s band of the same name (widely recognized as the original fathers of the punk movement) fails to resonate.
Though definitely more aggressive than its predecessors, there is depth here. It isn't hard rock just for the sake of being hard rock. Even "Sex and Violence," a song which could be mistaken as supportive of stalkers, is saved by a sweeping chorus.
Like Tiny Music, No. 4 is balanced by catchy pop songs, such as "Sour Girl," which should be the next single, "Glide," or the country-tinged "I Got You." The album's closing song, "Atlanta," showcases string arrangements reminiscent of the Moody Blues.
Weiland's troubles can be heard in the lyrics to the angry "No Way Out," a song which finds the singer owning up to being responsible, and knowing there's "no way out" -- unless he does something about it.
The saddest part of the Stone Temple Pilots' story is how good the band is -- and how much bigger it could be. There's only one thing keeping it from surpassing its peers (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice in Chains): Scott Weiland. The band is capable of creating some beautiful music ... together.
After completing work on No. 4, Weiland was sentenced to a year
in rehabilitation in early September. The rest of the band will promote
the album without the singer. Unless it decides to tour without Weiland,
STP won't be playing live again until mid-summer 2000.
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