This is Stone Temple Pilots' fourth album, creatively titled and released in 1999. Same band line-up: Scott Weiland, Dean and Robert DeLeo, and Eric Kretz. Right now, at this very moment, this is tied for My Favourite Album with Tool's Lateralus. When I was a bit younger, I would never have been able to tell you any of the band's names. But I could have told you what they looked like.
I used to record music videos. Yessir, I did. Had all kinds, early nineties. Lots of Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. Stone Temple Pilots, and way too much Nirvana. I had the whole Unplugged In New York show. In angry slashes of black permanent marker was
emblazoned across the label; it probably has Futurama on it by now.
Some of these tapes, you'd swear I sat down, after getting home from school, and dutifully watched my favourite videos over and over again until the poor tapes decided, hey, we don't have to work in these conditions. Very true, from what I can recall--Black Hole Sun's on them a few times, and well, that one took a beating. It was the grinning, man, the fucking grinning.
The first tape was made somewhere around the release of Purple, Stone Temple Pilots' second album. You could find just about all of STP's videos on that tape. In fact, it started with Creep. The rest of the Core-era videos were on there too: Plush, Sex Type Thing. It's taken me ten years to realize that Stone Temple Pilots are one of my very favourite bands. Sure, they might've bore a slight resemblace to grunge, but I haven't to this day faulted them for it. They've developed, grown since the early nineties.
Matter of fact, for a long time I doubted that they could put out a shitty album, but they did. That's okay, too: Sting's a fucking genius, but he's definitely come up with a dud or two in his time, despite the INCREDIBLE AND AMAZING ROCKING of The Police. Core was good, Purple was better. Tiny Music was equally panned and lauded by fans. Most fans agree that No. 4 is "okay," the non-verbose equivalent of "man i liked thier early stuff better lol".
I beg to fucking differ.
Down: This was the first single from the album, and a great way to start a "comeback" after Weiland's well-documented heroin difficulties. The song bears a lot of the older STP sound, a ballsy, hard-rock thing. I don't know what it is about Eric Kretz's drumming, but check how bare it sounds--right in your face. I like it that way.
I personally find that the second track, Heaven & Hot Rods, reminds me of their earlier work. It's nice and fast, guitar's good and heavy--raunchy, even. Weiland's voice does pretty well in this song, with that sort of hollow tone to it. It's accentuated by the double-tracked, harmonized vocals. Amazingly good range, this man has. I've always been impressed by his vocals, and those of the late Layne Staley. There's power there.
Pruno is maybe the only weak spot throughout the earlier half of the album. It's not a bad song by any stretch, but the repetitive, totally filtered guitar sort of grates on me. Some more excellent vocal harmonies in this one. From time to time.
Track four, Church on Tuesday, is good, and it's got a nice bluesish (calling it blue would be a lie, but Dean DeLeo has this strange pseudo-blues thing going on) feel to it. It's also one of the couple of slow, ballad-like songs on the album.
The fifth track is the second single. Sour Girl had a sweet video too. In it, Weiland dances around like a weirdo (and I always try to spot tracks on his arms but I never find any), and then dances around with Sarah Michelle Gellar who turns from a gothy girl into a girl in a frilly dress. They dance together while the band hangs out with strange bunny-monsters. I should inform you that this is a very strong single, very guitar-focussed. The guitar work is very clear, if you listen closely: most of the other tracks are distorted to hell. Also, pay attention to the vocals--all the different tracks are really fun to sing.
No Way Out, the little single that couldn't.I'm fond of this song. It's, oh, I don't know, stompy, maybe. The lyrics are pretty negative. I'm going under / I'm suffocatin, but this adds to the raucousness of it all. The guitar tends to feed back a lot, which also adds to the ambience. I can understand why it was not that successful as a song just because it's plain.
The seventh track is Sex & Violence. It's good, even though the guitars are a mess. But it's another of the non-standout songs. It's quite fast and noisy, but beyond that, it doesn't spring out at the listeners (unless, of course, said listener decides to listen to STP like Devon does, at whatever "10" is on your respective stereos).
(Note: At this point the album becomes decidedly less listenable; that's not to say it's bad, because it isn't. It's still quite good. But in comparison to the last seven tracks, all of which are pretty good, the songs weaken, starting with Glide.)
Track eight, Glide, starts off with a cool little guitar riff, but it sort of slides downhill from there. To make matters worse, it doesn't get any better, no rising crescendo of ear-pleasing rock music, just sort of mundane. If I had to define this track in one word, it'd be "okay".
I Got You is one of my favourite songs on the album, despite its heroin-affected lyrics. Except not in the Alice In Chains way of heroin-affected. This one has fairly direct lyrics. In addition, I like the guitars in this one--fairly plain acoustic with electric fills and, of course, the slide guitar that permeates the beginning.
MC5, well, it's sort of a song that probably sounds a lot better live. Put it this way--whenever I hear it I find myself humming it, but never remembering the lyrics or the name.
The last track, Atlanta, is decent. I always think of Carlos Santana when I hear this one, I don't really know why. But it doesn't sound totally finished, or something, like the band could've tried a little harder when recording and writing this one.
If I had to choose, I'd say this album is somewhere in between the borrow-from-friend and go-buy-now categories. Definitely sample a few tracks from your favourite peer-to-peer network if you like.
This album provides a fairly solid rock sound. It's not nu-metal, it's not pop, it's rock music, something popular music seems to be remarkably and universally devoid of these days. I found No. 4 refreshing, after being permeated by bullshit like Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Disturbed et al. Of course, I'm a long-time Stone Temple Pilots fan, so I'm a little biased.
No. 4 is a very well-rounded album; even though I've said that after track seven, the album weakens, it's not a big deal. You can still bob your head in your living room, your car, or wherever the hell you are*. The only weak spot, in my estimation, is Glide, which isn't that great. Otherwise, listen. Rock out. Listen again. You won't be sorry.
* I just wanted to state for the record that this album is the best when either a) in the car, turned up decently loud, but not enough to drown everything out, or b) in a Discman or other portable disc player. Turned up. Loud. Whatever the loudest is, try two notches below that, and work your way up.