Rating 7 out 10
Could this album be considered Stone Temple Pilots II? Their last full length release with their late lead singer Scott Weiland was 2010’s Stone Temple Pilots. In between both self-titled albums, the band did release an EP and tour with their second lead singer, Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, who committed suicide last year. Last few years it seemed like Eric Kretz and the DeLeo brothers were trying to see if they or Velvet Revolver could beat each other to the punch and announce their new lead singer first! Could it have been that they were waiting for Bennington all along?
I have for the most part always been a fan of the band, and I would consider the aforementioned 2010 album being my least favorite, with their often looked over, and heaviest album, No. 4 being my favorite. I have always been able to find for the most part something that I have liked off of all of their releases. This includes going back to the white label promo cassette I received from Atlantic Records back in 1992, which I happen to still have in my possetion.
For all of the purists out there, that are going to start bitching about the name, please keep moving, nothing to see here. As I’ve mentioned time and time again, what are they supposed to do, give it up and start to paint houses? They, hand in hand with Jerry Cantrell and Alice In Chains are example number one when it comes to building a brand, and having it supercede anything else a fickle rock audience accepts. Case in point two brilliant releases under the names Talk Show and Army Of Anyone, yet fans didn’t buy those albums, or go see them live. Yet the STP audience has garnered attention, regardless how many times they’ve broken up, gotten back together, or who has fronted the band. So what are they supposed to do? They built this name up, why shouldn’t they use it? Especially given the fact that it is the only name people seem to latch onto.
All of that out of the way, on to the album itself, to me they have always straddled the line between Aerosmith and Zeppelin, with at time a 60s pop sensibility. This album is no different, they aren’t reinventing the wheel, this is their episode seven, where they’re reintroducing the band with a new lead singer and saying “it’s safe to come out and play again”. The album has everything you’ve come to love from the DeLeo brothers, the intricacies on guitar that Dean has always brought forward with Roberts meandering bass parts. Kretz in my mind has quietly always been the glue to keep the band together, when people pointed to Weiland or the brothers he was always there to do what was needed to make songs better, less flash, and more holding the fort down, and filling in all of the gaps needed to solidify the band’s foundation.
On to Jeff Gutt, yes he is a former X Factor contestant, but had also been gigging in the L.A. area for years. He was announced to the world as the band’s new lead singer at a show they put on last year at The Troubadour in L.A. My social media blew up at the time with musician after musician praising the move, or saying he deserved it as they had known him for years, and it was a good guy finally getting his break. On the album Gutt sounds like Weiland, even when Bennington was with the band, he was trying to sound like Weiland, it is part of STP’s signature sound. They aren’t hiding from what brought them to the dance. For as much as Weiland was an important cog in this machine, the rest of the band had a lot to do with molding the melodies he sung, this has continued with Gutt. The band’s DNA is all over the album, there is no mistaking it’s an STP album.
There are some interesting musical transitions on this album, you have tracks that start out one way, and the band takes you a different direction you weren’t expecting, all still within their formula. “Never Enough” is like this, it starts out with a Doors influence, but then transitions into a trippy chorus STP has done so well in the past, into another signature post-chorus transition by the band. “Good Shoes” has them flying the Zeppelin flag with the brothers channeling Page and Jones to the best of their ability, with a simple but infectious chorus. The ballads on the album range from pulling influences from The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac to The Beatles, with twinges of country and modern pop sensibilities. “Meadow” and “Roll Me Under” are singles that the band have released beforehand, and in my opinion slot in among some of the stronger material released by the band. The first five tracks are full on STP rock, and a combination of that, and the tracks mentioned above make this a solid release by the band.
The album doesn’t break any new ground, but ticks off all the right boxes for anyone who has followed the them without any preconceived notions, and is looking for new music by the band in 2018.
Stand out tracks: Roll Me Under, Meadow, Middle Of Nowhere, Six Eight