i know it is beyond lazy and cliche to view everything STONE TEMPLE PILOTS-related through the prism of SCOTT WEILAND and his addictions, but in retrospect it is nearly impossible not to see their debut album CORE (ATLANTIC, 1992) as a testament to what the band was capable of with their wildly gifted frontman at his most determined and sober. before that tour with THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS that led to WEILAND's downfall. oh and what a debut it was.
STONE TEMPLE PILOTS always had great singles, but their real knack was for fusing together disparate elements of CLASSIC ROCK, PYSCHEDELIA, METAL and POWER POP into a potent mix that arguably none of their ALTERNATIVE ROCK contemporaries could pull, nor wished to. while singles like "PLUSH," "SEX TYPE THING" and "CREEP" where fixtures of my SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA youth listening to KROQ 106.7 FM our of LOS ANGELES, the songs that stuck with me where the more experimental and dirge-y numbers like "WICKED GARDEN," "WHERE THE RIVER GOES," "PIECE OF PIE" and especially "SIN." in my estimation, there is no weak moment on this debut. i think with later records the band branched out a bit with their songwriting chops by conceiving of songs with ever more disparate textures, tempos and song structures, but that is no knock on the debut. its kind of like knocking the early BEATLES albums for being more derivative than than THE WHITE ALBUM (APPLE, 1968).
my memories of this album are related to a trip my family took in the mid 1990s to SPAIN where i was able to get a copy of this record an EL CORTE INGLES. so my teenage impressions of this record are filled with backseat visions of the SPANISH countryside through towns like AVILA, SEGOVIA, CORDOBA and SALAMANCA. in era of great ALTERNATIVE ROCK frontman like LAYNE STALEY, CHRIS CORNELL, EDDIE VEDDER and KURT COBAIN, i'd put SCOTT WEILAND right up there. like all those aforementioned frontman (aside from VEDDER), its still tragic that their collective output was hampered by personal issues related to ADDICTION and MENTAL ILLNESS.
i think empathy is in order and i for one am grateful for the gifts they gave the world. rest in peace SCOTT.
during my 1990s childhood in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, there were two songs i remember hearing on the ALTERNATIVE ROCK station 106.7 KROQ and having absolutely no clue who sang them. in those days there was no SHAZAM app or internet and the only way to learn was if the DJ felt like mentioning it. the first song i learned years later was NIRVANA's haunting "SAPPY." the other was STONE TEMPLE PILOT's laid-back, harrowing cover of LED ZEPPELIN's "DANCING DAYS" on the ENCOMIUM: A TRIBUTE TO LED ZEPPELIN (ATLANTIC, 1995) tribute compilation.
that cover in particular is probably one of SCOTT WEILAND's great performances and showcases a charisma and preternatural ability to shine when the focus very much is on him and his voice. he comes off both assured and insular and transforms a celebratory anthem into something entirely different, something excruciatingly introspective. i should also mention that guitarist DEAN DELEO has some righteous slide work on the track which only heightens that haunting, reflective vibe.
when revisiting this compilation recently, i was struck by the quality of other vocal performances by the likes of LINDA PERRY (4 NON BLONDES), SHANNON HOON (BLIND MELON) HENRY ROLLINS (ROLLINS BAND) and DAVID YOW (THE JESUS LIZARD here collaborating with HELMET), which all point to the dynamic and versatile quality of the songwriting and the poetic lyricism of JIMMY PAGE and ROBERT PLANT. just the fact that this material can be interpreted convincingly by such disparate artists is pretty remarkable. that is not to say that there arent some forgettable, less-than-stellar duds from the likes of HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH, SHERYL CROW, CRACKER and DURAN DURAN, remember this was put out by ATLANTIC RECORDS with largely its then-current roster of artists. maybe this was a calculated effort to draw attention to LED ZEPPELIN's back catalogue as PAGE & PLANT where reestablishing their recording and touring career at the time as a duo. could be that this compilation was a marketing ploy, but with the solid aforementioned contributions, i dont believe it was a fruitless exercise in the least.
ENCOMIUM is definitely worth checking out if you are a LED ZEPPELIN aficionado or even a fan of SCOTT WEILAND or SHANNON HOON. definitely two captivating performances by the two at a point in their creative careers when they were firing on all cylinders. REST IN PEACE to both.
a lot critics over the years have loved to heap shit on STONE TEMPLE PILOTS, calling them opportunistic wannabes and whatnot. but i think they all missed the point. that band had one of the most consistently ALTERNATIVE ROCK discographies of the 1990s and some of its most iconic singles. i think part of that critical backlash to the band was their unapologetic love of mostly 1970s CLASSIC ROCK which was decidedly not kosher back in an era that found bands that had their roots in more underground movements like 1980s HARDCORE and INDIE ROCK. remember KURT COBAIN dismissed supposed SEATTLE rivals PEARL JAM initially for their admiration of 1970s "arena rock," i.e. CLASSIC ROCK, since they used extended solos, which was all a bit hypocritical since COBAIN was famously a closet fan of the genre as well. so basically i am attempting to say that this whole line of criticism was pretty facile to begin with.
what actually derailed STONE TEMPLE PILOTS was sadly the drug-fueled and ego-driven extra-curricular activities of charismatic frontman SCOTT WEILAND (RIP) ultimately overshadowed the immense songwriting abilities of the DELEO BROTHERS and the work they all collectively created together. that narrative defined the band to a large extent, both then and now. but if you listen back to what i consider their best collective effort, PURPLE (ATLANTIC, 1994), you will find a creative unit firing on all cylinders and having real fun playing with traditionalist CLASSIC ROCK tropes. in a good way.
tracks like "VASOLINE," "SILVERGUN SUPERMAN," "MEATPLOW" and "UNGLUED" are all slow-building stompers with explosive choruses that bring to mind the work of MOUNTAIN, LED ZEPPELIN and THE WHO. other songs like "ARMY ANTS" and "LOUNGE FLY" are definitively in the 1960s psychedelia camp, reminiscent of the expanded sonic palettes of BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD, JIMI HENDRIX and even THE DOORS. what i find particularly most intriguing are the slide-guitar based singles "INTERSTATE LOVE SONG" and "BIG EMPTY" which seem to have sonic connection to that of JOE WALSH and that LAUREL CANYON-era of classic CALIFORNIA songwriting. in essence, the sound of the STONE TEMPLE PILOTS has eclectic antecedents in scenes past, but is that a bad thing? again, where they traditionalists? of course, but who wasnt during that era?
as a kid who grew up in the 1990s, for me the songs off PURPLE were my soundtrack inasmuch as anything off of NEVERMIND, ANGEL DUST, SUPERUNKNOWN, LIVE THROUGH THIS, BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIK, VITALOGY, LAST SPLASH, SIAMESE DREAM, THE BLUE ALBUM, RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL or DIRT. its another great ALTERNATIVE ROCK record of the era worthy of reconsideration by a criminally under-appreciated band.