Depending on your point of view, Stone Temple Pilots’ debut, 1992’s Core, was either the last of the first wave of big alt rock records grouped under the name “Grunge”, or it was the first major album to come after Success of the genre. Either way, it dealt enough blows to disrupt the already turbulent waters of Puget Sound. For the first three years of the band’s career, most critics and artists viewed them as posers reaching for the hem of Eddie Vedder’s cutoffs. In his 1993 Spin cover story subtly titled “Steal This Hook”, Jonathan Gold reports that Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers STP liked to call it “Stone Pimple Toilets”.
But for the millions of young Gen-Xers who headbanged in their Geo Prizms to “Sex Type Thing”, the question arose whether Scott Weiland and his bandmates – the brothers Robert and Dean DeLeo on bass and guitar and drummer Eric Kretz – a had cultural rights to their Big Muff pedals and secondhand clothing didn’t matter. They wrote killer rock songs and that was enough. This was apparently the first priority of the STP. At a time when authenticity was viewed as artistic novelty and personal agony, and critics saw authenticity as the primary goal of music, STP saw alternative rock as just another type of pop music and was content to work in its established forms. If the flannel got too warm, they just shrugged it off.
Remarkably, they didn’t bother to put on anything else. Her third album, 1996 Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop – reissued for the 25th anniversary with a collection of alternative takes and a 1997 live set from Panama City Beach – is glamorous and sexy in a way that Seattle’s doormen blush would let. His experimental streak – if a little exaggerated in later years – showed that they were ready to explore new sounds, but only if they led to pop gold. The songs themselves are emotionally direct, evoking T. Rex, Bowie and Rolling Stones from the exile era; Like these totems of exhaustion and bravery, almost every song sounds like it was written at 4:30 in the morning.
Everything goes quickly and smoothly, Weiland’s voice scratches like a skate on old ice. While the band’s early singles like “Plush” and “Dead & Bloated” were more melodic, they could come across as sluggish and a little intrusive, cornering you like a graduate student at a party who really wants you to get there Where he came from . “Pop’s Love Suicide” and “Tumble in the Rough”, which open the album, both sound like hammered out of sheet metal. They move with a newfound speed and ease, but their casual arrangements and flat melodies make them seem light; You can hardly imagine that they are setting a surge commercial to music, let alone opposing the post-grunge glam that Spacehog has already perfected.
It may seem unfair to frame Stone Temple Pilots in terms of the artists they channeled, but originality was never their goal. “The last thing I wanted to do with this band was make everyone believe we made something up,” Robert DeLeo told the LA Times in 1994. Accordingly, many of Tiny Music’s best moments come when the band openly embraces their influences. “Lady Picture Show” is a stately piece of Beatles Pop that sounds like a version of “You Never Give Me Your Money” that has been on the street for a few days. Although Weiland would later say that it is about “the terrible gang rape of a dancer who falls in love but cannot let go of the pain,” the song never carries its emotional heaviness too proud; like Paul McCartney, who delivers “Eleanor Rigby”, Weiland acts as a concerned – albeit lyrically dull – observer, and the distance he places between himself and the subject gives the song a melancholy atmosphere that is light years away from the awkwardness of “ Sex Type “removed is thing.”
“Big Bang Baby” goes one step further by checking Bowie’s “Station to Station” name and directly taking over the chorus melody from the Stones “Jumpin ‘Jack Flash”. While the latter led the then-editor of Pitchfork to accuse them of plagiarism in a truly deplorable review after its original publication, Weiland attempted to use one of the most famous rock songs of all time as a devious comment on the weight of fame: “Sell your soul and inscribe.” Autograph ”, he sings in the previous text. When the band switches from the agitated glamor of the chorus to a beautiful sounding chorus of “Nothing’s for free”, the irony becomes obvious. Seldom had they mastered their craft so well.
“Adhäsiv” meanwhile showed that Stone Temple Pilots were still tuned to alternative radio, its slow blossoms of overdriven guitar and muffled vocals hovering in the same galaxy as Hum’s 1995 hit “Stars”. Weiland suffered from a heroin addiction that would slowly erode his life over the next two decades. But now, about two years after Kurt Cobain’s death, he was very much aware of himself as a product and how his own death would likely be co-opted by the industry. “Sell more records when I’m dead,” he sings. “Hope it is near the fiscal year of corporate records.” Even when the song rises to a chorus, its voice remains weak and thin; it is one of the few times at Tiny Music that he returns to the alienation that marked the band’s early work.
Despite occasional introspective moments, Tiny Music is primarily an album of expansion. It was taken in a 25,000-square-foot mansion north of Santa Barbara, in all the bathrooms, hallways, and even on the lawn. The tracks here, which were absurd to critics at the time, seem like the most carefully considered – and daring – moments on the album today. NME probably called “And So I Know” “blatant easy listening” because the cool swing of its starry guitar jazz was at odds with what was considered a sensibility among male groups at the time. Although the song was never released as a single, it showed that a rock band could be sincere without being intrusive, expanding, if only slightly, the era’s narrow notions of authenticity and masculinity. A few years later, Incubus was selling a lot of records that played basically the same type of song. You can also hear the past and future of alt-rock radio on “Tripin ‘on a Hole in a Paper Heart,” whose fiery chorus would have fit Alice in Chains’ Dirt and whose choppy, pepped up verses made clear to the happy way out out the grunge that bands like Third Eye Blind would like to follow.
Apart from a full version of the cut album opener “Press Play”, the alternative cuts of this new edition are more interesting than important, but the concert in Panama City Beach captures the power of Stone Temple Pilots as a live band. Portions of that set aired on MTV’s Spring Break, and if the chatter of the crowd in the quieter moments is any indication, this wasn’t the most attentive audience STP has ever played for. But the band doesn’t seem to notice or care. Robert DeLeo covers so much space, he seems to be playing rhythm and lead at the same time, steering feedback and slide guitar through the verses of “Big Empty” and replicating the waves of the organ in “Lady Picture Show”.
Hearing Weiland toggle between the voice he used on Core and Purple and the shy shout he developed for Tiny Music is a reminder that his vocal transformation arguably in the mid-90s Tiny Music’s biggest artistic leap is; he takes melodic lines with a winking lightheartedness that makes him sound like Bono who has gone hoarse with jet lag, and his ability to convincingly liven up both the swirling darkness of the first two albums and the bright pop of tiny music in this set, is remarkable. The tracklist is evenly distributed over their three albums and shows how many hits these guys had already collected in 1997.
In his 1996 review of Tiny Music, Charles Aaron von Spin suggested that the Stone Temple Pilots were fundamentally lacking in irony. This is not entirely true, even if by “irony” Aaron meant the cynicism of the insignia of rock culture that the alternative movement was so eager to avoid. While this supposed lack prevented them from being accepted by the alt and indie rock stars of their time, it also allowed them to enjoy big, powerful goofball rock and roll without questioning their ambitions. Sure, that’s how Scott Weiland probably landed in a duet with Fred Durst and Jonathan Davis in Limp Bizkit’s Significant Other and how we all ended up on Velvet Revolver. But Stone Temple Pilots have also managed to develop into a much more interesting band without losing their pop appeal. For a band regularly accused of chasing trends, Tiny Music proved they were ready to defy the defining trait of the era: They made it sound like they were in a very famous – if somewhat dumb – rock band when it might actually be fun.
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