photo & text by nacrowe
SHANGRI-LA DEE DA (ATLANTIC, 2001) can effectively be considered the STONE TEMPLE PILOTS creative swan song as it is the last record to include a fully engaged SCOTT WEILAND at the arguable height of his powers as a lyricist and singer. the strained post-VELVET REVOLVER reunion follow-up STONE TEMPLE PILOTS (ATLANTIC, 2010) album nearly a decade later found a CHEMICALLY DIMINISHED WEILAND literally mailing in his contributions via an outside studio from the band, which the surviving members have admitted in recent years were embarrassingly SUBPAR. but on SHANGRI-LA DEE DA he was in fine form.
like with all things STONE TEMPLE PILOTS-related, TRAGEDY and MISSED OPPORTUNITIES abound with SHANGRI-LA DEE DA. the record was a throwback of sorts to the harder-edge AGGRESSIVE sound of the band's debut CORE (ATLANTIC, 1992), effectively shedding the PSYCHEDELIC, GLAM and POWER POP elements the band had interwoven into their sound over the following records. tracks like "DUMB LOVE," "REGENERATION," "HOLLYWOOD BITCH" and "COMA" are some of the hardest hitting tracks the band had ever produced this side of "DOWN" of NO. 4 (ATLANTIC, 1999) or "PIECE OF PIE," "WICKED GARDEN," "SIN" or "DEAD & BLOATED" off CORE. to my ears those songs comprised the key tracks of the album, but you wouldnt know that by the fact taht ATLANTIC RECORDS chose "DAYS OF THE WEEK," a TUNEFUL middle-of-the-road POWER POP outlier on an otherwise PUMMELING album, as the first single. such became a minor radio hit, but the record kind of fizzled in the public imagination thereafter and the WEILAND saga and DOWNWARD SPIRAL continued from then on. i just dont understand how "COMA" was not a single as it is such a POWERFUL, CRUSHINGLY BELLIGERENT track.
the context of SHANGRI-LA DEE DA's reception was that in 2001 you had the back-to-basics INDIE ROCK REVIVAL happening with bands like THE WHITE STRIPES and THE STROKES in full command of the zeitgeist, much as NU METAL bands like KORN and LIMP BIZKIT had only a few years earlier. the STONE TEMPLE PILOTS, even during the ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion of the early 90s, was always a bit of an outsider. back then they were a gifted SAN DIEGO band accused of aping and exploiting the SEATTLE scene, which is laughable now, but it belies the point that they were always seemingly proving themselves time and again in a HOSTILE marketplace that didnt view them as a natural fit. for whatever reason, later POST-GRUNGE peers in FOO FIGHTERS could transcend such but the STONE TEMPLE PILOTS, especially in the later years of their career, could not catch a break. despite how strong some of these tracks are off SHANGRI-LA DEE DA, it was effectively a CULTURAL ANACHRONISM even before its release. not sure it ever really had a chance.
i remember coming across the album at the now long-DEFUNCT DIMPLE RECORDS in SACRAMENTO my senior year of high school and being particularly taken with the other STANDOUT track, "A SONG FOR SLEEPING." that track is lyrically a love letter of sorts from WEILAND to his newborn son NOAH, with him celebrating their future together and all the activities and life events yet to come. it is a HOPEFUL song that is rather SENTIMENTAL and TOUCHING. and in retrospect senselessly TRAGIC. of course now we know that WEILAND didnt make it to his son's 16th birthday when he died in SAD, PATHETIC fashion from a long overdue drug overdose on a tour bus in MINNESOTA in 2015. its not quite on the level of JOHN LENNON and the hauntingly MOVING DOUBLE FANTASY () track "BEAUTIFUL BOY," but it is sadly of that same unintended genre of a song yearning to see a new child through their development into adulthood only to have their life cut short in the process. very much a UNFORTUNATE state of affairs.
i think SHANGRI-LA DEE DA is a STRONG STONE TEMPLE PILOTS record that was expertly pulled off by the LONG-SUFFERING DELEO BROTHERS and drummer ERIC WRETZ, the UNSUNG heroes (by far) of the band. my personal preference is for PURPLE (ATLANTIC, 1994) and TINY MUSIC... SONGS FROM THE VATICAN GIFT SHOP (ATLANTIC, 1996) as the DEFINITIVE records the band ever released and the perfect starting point. but SHANGRI-LA DEE DA is definitely worth checking out nonetheless.