Wednesday, 5 December 2012

100 LPs Shortlist #23: Stone Temple Pilots - "Tiny Music..."

In defense of the Stone Temple Pilots...

...early in their career they were chided and derided for being a third-rate Pearl Jam knock-off.  This is somewhat true, especially when using their first LP as exhibit A, your honour.  To be fair, the record had a few good moments, but it was largely a pretentious and overwrought affair, as if they were trying too hard to prove a point.  It also contains a track called "Wet My Bed" which in my view is one of the greatest wastes of studio resources ever, but the less said about that, the better.

Their second record, "Purple", blew the band into the stratosphere, and rightly so.  They stripped back their pretentions, lead singer Scott Weiland found the soul in his voice and the De Leo brothers proved themselves able to create timeless riffs and melodies.

Onto album number three, whose full title is the ridiculous "Tiny Music...Songs from The Vatican Gift Shop". Given the widespread reporting of lead singer Weiland's appetite for hard drugs at the time, just from the title you could almost assume this would be a document of a band imploding under a narcotic haze.

What prevents this record from being so is the genius behind the compositions.  Rob and Dean De Leo really shine on this album, with chunky riffs and ever more elastic grooves which make the album so enjoyable.  Of course, Scott's lyrics indicate that an intervention would be forthcoming; his lyrics are so impenetrable I defy anyone to explain what they mean.

After all, what the hell does "So keep your bankroll lottery, eat your salad day deathbed motorcade" actually mean anyway?  One could probably add that to the long list of nonsense pop lyrics along with "Oom-papa-ooh-mow-mow" and "Dah-doo-doo-doo De dah-dah-dah".  Lucky it bounces along throughout "Tripping On A Hole In A Paper Heart" on the back of a cool descending melody and a beautifully crunchy guitar line and a galloping rhythm.

Among its 12 tracks there are two short instrumental throwaways, but the actual songs are killer.  It's all smooth sailing with 6 amazing songs in a row starting at track 2 ("Pop's Love Suicide") and kinda hits the breaks a bit at "Art School Girl" which is the first really odd excursion on the LP.  Its schizoid nature is split between an odd-Bowie-esque pop section, a Noise-pop excursion that would be at home on a My Bloody Valentine LP and a rather empty, dreamy sequence.

The mellow songs on here are revelatory - the warm jazz-inflected tune "And So I Know" is very different from what we normally expect from STP, and "Adhesive" is a stadium anthem in waiting.

Track 12 is "Seven Caged Tigers" and it has the aforementioned "elastic" groove to it.  A mate of mine at the time used to refer to it as "glide" music - to this day I have no idea why.  This could be the ancestor in terms of sound and feel to later mainstream pap like "Cumbersome" by 7Mary3.

The influence of David Bowie on this album is everywhere.  Lyrical references to "Station to Station" as well as borrowing from the Glam stomp of the Ziggy Stardust era are all over this album; none moreso than in the lead single "Big Bang Baby".  You have to get your influence from somewhere, and there are worse places to start than Bowie, I can assure you...

At the time of release, it stood out as being different in its sound and approach.  A lot of lesser bands pilfered the sound and style of this record without actually adding anything of substance to it.  In my view, this is the Pilots high point, and it was the last time they were so thoroughly consistent on an album.

Check out the LP below in Spotify.  Enjoy.

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