Stone Temple Pilots
No. 4 (Atlantic)
by Jon Sarre
I’m thinkin’ that the simple numeric moniker of this record is intended to hint that this is gonna be the grunge wagon-jumpers turned “let’s all just be regular rock stars” masterpiece, their Zoso (aka Led Zeppelin 4). The similarities, however, start and end with the chronological title. That’s to say, this is Stone Temple Pilots‘ fourth release, just as the album that unleashed “Stairway to Heaven” on the world was Zep’s forth LP. Only problem is, there’s not a song with the stand-alone quality of “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Black Dog,” “When the Levee Breaks” blah, blah, blah.
To me, admittedly someone who’s never listened to an entire STP release all the way through before this ‘un (and pretty much thought all the singles off their first sounded alternately like Pearl Jam or Nirvana, but always either/or, not both at the same time and that the ones off the other two records sounded like psychedelicized Tool or something similarly icky), tho’ I did see the Pilots open for the Butthole Surfers one time and Scott Weiland hit some guy with his bassist’s’ guitar cuz he thought the guy threw a shoe at him and the guy (the guy who got hit with the bass, not Scott) got brain damage and couldn’t work as a house painter anymore and anyway, after STP played, half the place cleared out and the other half hung around to gawk while the Buttholes raised holy hell. No. 4 is probably some kinda accomplishment, cuz after splitting the last few years between appearing on MTV and hanging out in various drug treatment centers with Robert Downey Jr (well, Weiland anyway), they’ve cooked up what could be best described as the “Stone Temple Pilots’ sound,” which, despite not being terribly original, is better imitating whatever’s popular at the moment (which is good cuz I don’t think they could pull off being the Backstreet Boys). Of course, they mighta come to this point, like, two albums ago, but that’s something I would know nothing about, cuz, as I said earlier, I didn’t hear much off those records (tho’ I do know that “rock radio” station playlists seem more comfortable with the material offa the debut, what was that called? Plush?).
Anyway, the merits of the “Stone Temple Pilots’ sound” would probably be better discussed by someone who appreciates really loud acoustic guitars, which pop music loving rock chick Viva Las Vegas once pointed out in a musical diatribe not covering a topic akin to “You’re a total idiot if you think Screeching Weasel’s better than Green Day” is kinda an alt-rock cliché by now, tho’ I’ll grant that ya get a fuller sound, which STP likes a bunch, ‘specially seein’ as they gotta utilize all them plodding sub-metallic riffs the other guitarist plays so the drums don’t stick out as the closest approximation of Fat Elvis repeatedly falling down a metal staircase and landing on Fat Brando. Seriously, they coulda done a bit better by the rock if they just lightened the load and sped the shit up a tad (and if you disagree, well, it’s just too fuckin’ bad, I have “Stone Temple Pilots No. 4 Atlantic Advance CD #20″ – hand numbered, y’all! – and you gotta wait to buy the sumbitch at Goody’s).
In the vocalists’ booth, natch, is Weiland, the sad clown in the bad oil painting that is modern rockdumb. The guy’s gotta have the weirdest range of anybody doin’ crap like this, with the possible exception of Mike Patton. He’ll be doin’ his stock fellow heroin enthusiast Layne Stanley imitations for a while and then wander into that damn falsetto (for reasons no less murkier than he can, I guess). Strangest thing of all on No. 4 is the song called “MC5.” Except for that fact that the line “see through you” maybe does “Looking At You” one better, I can’t figure out why they woulda named it that. The 5 was once on the same record label (Atlantic), perhaps. We’ll know that’s the reason for sure if the next disc has “Led Zeppelin” on it.