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Stone Temple Pilots

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Long before grunge-pop pirates NICKELBACK had sown up the seeds of every band from NIRVANA to CREED, there was another rock act who took pride in pilfering from the Washington State scene: Californians STONE TEMPLE PILOTS. While critics lambasted STP’s need to mirror a movement more or less at its peak (it probably died with Kurt Cobain on April 5, 1994), a multitude of grunge fans lapped up anything sounding familiarly like PEARL JAM, SOUNDGARDEN or ALICE IN CHAINS. Still, at the core of the band’s initially derivative sound was one of rock’s maverick but wayward personalities, Scott Weiland.
Formed 1987, in Los Angeles, Weiland had met bassist Robert DeLeo at a BLACK FLAG gig in Long Beach a year earlier, while an unheard-of bond was developed after they realised they were coincidentally courting the same woman – another tale was that Weiland and former high school buddy, Corey Hicock, tracked Robert down after seeing the man perform live. In the event, drummer David Allin was drafted in, but was shown the door almost immediately when Eric Kretz was preferred; Hicock, too, was surplus to requirements, when guitarist-turned-entrepreneur-turned-guitarist Dean DeLeo (Robert’s older brother) joined up. Known then as Swing, then Mighty Joe Young, the players duly opted for the less frenetic San Diego as a musical base. It was 1990 and the music world was in ready for its first major revolution since punk – grunge.
As luck had it, a call from their solicitor revealed that the Mighty Joe Young moniker had already been claimed by a Chicago blues guitarist (aka Joseph Young), and the band were forced into coming up with something fresh and original. Throwing ideas into the pot, STP Motor Oil stickers had always been a boyhood fix for all concerned, and while they nearly chose the double-entendre Shirley Temple’s Pussy, the STP thread was still in line as they settled for the considerably less thorny STONE TEMPLE PILOTS.
After a few years developing their craft on San Diego’s alt-rock circuit, the band finally signed to Atlantic Records; the fruits of their labour, the Brendan O’Brien-produced CORE {*7} – released the same day as ALICE IN CHAINS’ “Dirt”, surfacing in September ‘92. Favourable critical reviews saw the album push up the chart (eventually reaching Top 3), songs like `Sex Type Thing’ and `Plush’ drawing inevitable comparisons with PEARL JAM; Weiland’s vocals, especially, were from the EDDIE VEDDER/Kurt Cobain/CHRIS CORNELL school of gravel-throated cool, evidenced on `Creep’, `Wicked Garden’ and the 8-minute conclusion, `Where The River Flows’. After `Sex..’ and `Plush’ were issued in Britain as singles the following year, the album belatedly surged into the nation’s Top 30, Weiland’s dyed carrot-topped mop marking him out as a distinctive focal point for the band.
The aforementioned ALICE IN CHAINS and LED ZEPPELIN (STP had covered “Dancing Days”) were other obvious reference points, while a second album, PURPLE (1994) {*8}, built on these influences to create a more cerebral post-grunge sound. The fact that the set rocketed into the charts at No.1 (Top 10 in Britain) was a measure of the group’s lofty standing in the echelons of the American alt-rock scene. Although inherit of grunge, it was clear STP were trying to break free of the shackles that induced critics to shout them down. Pity then the pigeonhole awaiting them for `Big Empty’, `Interstate Love Song’, `Vasoline’ and `Meat Plow’, although the folky/Led Zeppelin III-esque `Pretty Penny’ was just simply beautiful.
Weiland’s love of nose candy and other associated pleasures was no secret in the music world, the frontman narrowly avoiding a sizeable prison stretch for drug possession. Early in 1996, STP delivered a third (Top 5) album, TINY MUSIC… SONGS FROM THE VATICAN GIFT SHOP {*7} – an old curiosity indeed. Defiantly different garnering a jangly, BEATLES-esque psychedelia over a redefined Brit-pop angle (`Big Bang Baby’ failed to chart), the record was squeezed out from the UK Top 30; multi-layered and textured as befitting any O’Brien production, STP had more or less found their own niche in a market saturated by wannabes.
Sadly, the group had to cancel affiliated tours due to their frontman being ordered by a Pasadena court to attend a live-in drug rehabilitation programme. He discharged himself for a few days in July ‘96 and gave himself up to the LAPD, who’d issued a warrant out for his arrest; Weiland was subsequently cleared.
The following year, the frontman continued his self-destructive behaviour, and while STP’s future looked bleak, the remaining band members formed TALK SHOW. Featuring singer Dave Coutts (from Ten Inch Men), their glam-meets-OASIS TALK SHOW (1997) {*5} set, was unsurprisingly given a thumbs-down by everyone not yet members of the STP fanclub.
A SCOTT WEILAND solo effort, “12 Bar Blues”, was poorly received the following year by critics and fans alike (SHERYL CROW guested on accordion!), while a long 18 months involving further Weiland arrests, saw the original STONE TEMPLE PILOTS back together for the appropriately-titled No.4 (1999) {*6}. Regurgitating grunge like it’d never died half a decade ago, an element of trippy neo-psychedelia tempered Robert and Scott’s harder-edged rawk’n’roll; `Sour Girl’, `Down’, `No Way Out’, `Sex & Violence’ and the `MC5’ tribute, stated that STP were still in business.
2001’s SHANGRI-LA DEE DA (2001) {*6} was again customised for their loyal homeland support, failing to find any favour in Britain. It was a record that faithfully followed the pattern set by its predecessor and further explored their interest in retro-psych. Once the delicate name-checking song fodder for the group PAVEMENT (a la “Range Life”), the STONE TEMPLE PILOTS seized the day on a number of potential, but out-of-date hits, including `Hollywood Bitch’, `Days Of The Week’, and the poignant `Transmissions From A Lonely Room’.
In 2004, off the junk, Weiland made a surprise comeback as frontman for VELVET REVOLVER, a band that featured three ex-GUNS N’ ROSES members, and a successful one at that. While Scott was fashioning out his own parallel solo career (he’d also been the main ingredient of metallic supergroup, Camp Freddy), a reunited STP were back in the fray in 2008, kicking off a series of arena-fillers before returning to the studio. The eponymous DeLeo brothers-produced STONE TEMPLE PILOTS (2010) {*6} just about scaled the charts, its rock-pop sensibilities in tact on the almost AEROSMITH-meets-MOTT-like glam on several of the cuts, served up best by `Hickory Dichotomy’, `Huckleberry Crumble’ and `Hazy Daze’.
With six albums on their CV and several classic songs behind them, it looked all over bar the shouting when Weiland was unceremoniously removed from the band. Courting controversy, the remaining STP alumni enlisted (part-time at first) a fan and singer better known for fronting LINKIN PARK and DEAD BY SUNRISE. He was of course, Chester Bennington, and lawyers were at the ready to fight it out in the courts for the exclusivity to the STONE TEMPLE PILOTS moniker. Meanwhile, in October 2013, there was a co-credited (STP/Bennington) EP, `High Rise’, issued on their own 13Star imprint.
Despite Bennington touring with the band for a couple of years, his first love was LINKIN PARK; from hence he returned to in 2015. Then there was the tragic news (on December 13) that SCOTT WEILAND had been found dead at the wheel of his recreational motorcar. The next eighteen months or so was spent finding a worthy deputy to fill their boots, and while auditions seemed to be coming to welcoming conclusion, Bennington committed suicide on July 13, 2017.
The decision to disclose the name of their new man was kept stumm until September when ex-Dry Cell singer Jeff Gutt (a one-time X Factor runner-up) rolled into play. The eponymous and unimaginatively-titled STONE TEMPLE PILOTS (2018) {*6} set was more a curiosity for post-grunge devotees than anything to spark a renaissance in the flagging genre. Still, building the tension, the Top 30 effort for Rhino Records had its moments through `Middle Of Nowhere’, `Meadow’, `Roll Me Under’, `The Art Of Letting Go’ and `Never Enough’.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS Oct2013-Apr2018

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