Monday, May 20, 2019

100 Albums: "Purple" by Stone Temple Pilots

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Stone Temple Pilots
Title: Purple
Released: 1994
Genre: alt-grunge / hard rock


Stone Temple Pilots appeared on the national scene in 1992, alongside other first-wave grunge acts like Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam. The "grunge" monicker covered a variety of musical styles: post-glam (Pearl Jam), punk (Nirvana), metal (Alice In Chains), and hard rock (Soundgarden). STP's debut Core is a solidly in the "hard rock" camp, and the most popular singles from that album--Creep and Plush--are also its mellowest. They followed this up with Purple, a record that transitions between their hard rock origins and the vintage pop-rock sound that would dominate their future records. I've mentioned earlier that "vintage" sounding bands are specifically aping Jimmy Page's guitar tone, and you can see the beginnings of that with STP on this record, especially in the album's most enduring single, Interstate Love Song. It should not be a surprise that the only cover STP ever released as a single was Led Zeppelin's Dancing Days.

Purple is a best-of-both-worlds record. It has some the band's best hard rock tracks in Vaseline and Unglued as well as some of their best mellow music in Pretty Penny and Big Empty. Silvergun Superman has a great deconstructed ending. Kitchenware & Candybars is--alongside Nirvana's Something In The Way--a quintessential grunge album closer. Still Remains is one of my favorite rock-and-roll love songs. The album wraps up with a hidden track called My Second Album, a lounge-style tune that satirizes the idea of hidden tracks while also showing off singer Scott Weiland's amazing singing voice in the same lounge context that he would later put to use in his amazingly bad solo Christmas album.

STP the band was consistently stymied by Weiland's drug addiction. Tours got canceled, the band broke up and reformed multiple times. Supposedly while recording No. 4 they would just finish the music and then prop him up in front of a microphone so he could record vocals while blasted out of his mind on heroin. Meanwhile the band recorded an entire other album with Dave Coutts of Ten Inch Men under the name Talk Show. But Weiland was so integral to STP's sound that they've never really been able to get any traction without him, and like so many other heroes of the era of music STP helped usher in, Weiland's habit would eventually lead him to a premature death.

Further Listening: The follow up to this was Tiny Music... Songs From The Vatican Gift Store, and it's a weird one, but I like it quite a lot. Big Bang Baby is my jam. I also like the subsequent album No. 4 for songs like low-key crooners like Sour Girl and I Got You. Their records after that range from forgettable (the recent self-titled album with Jeff Gutt) to really, weirdly bad (Shangri-La-De-Da) Weiland has some solo music that's almost unlistenably bad, and the rest of the band's forays without him are pretty disappointing.

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