Just when Courtney Love resurrects Hole and you think the comeback story of the year has been written, along comes Scott Weiland and the DeLeo brothers to give a seminar on exactly how this reunion business should be managed. When Stone Temple Pilots went on a less than harmonious hiatus seven years ago, no one could have guessed that they still had one of their best albums ever ahead of them. But the band’s new eponymous album not only represents STP’s personal best — it could very well be one of this year’s defining releases.
The album’s opening track, “Between the Lines,” shows STP’s expansion during their time apart. Between Weiland’s various sonic exploits with his solo work and Velvet Revolver and the DeLeos’ and drummer Eric Kretz’s Pop/Rock tenure with Army of Anyone, it’s clear that they’ve added new colors to their palette. More importantly, they haven’t forgotten what made STP great in the first place: thunderous Led Zeppelin riffage, sweet Beatlesque melodicism and a whipsmart contemporary attitude to update and translate their classic influences.
“Between the Lines” is full-bore psychedelic Grunge Pop in the service of one of STP’s most twisted love songs ever, as Weiland sings without a trace of irony, “I like it when we talk about love/ You always were my favorite drug/ Even when we used to take drugs,” roaring above a soundtrack that’s part Nirvana, part Spiders from Mars and all STP. “Take a Load Off” roars with Zep-like majesty, “Huckleberry Crumble” swaggers like the earliest and best Aerosmith and “First Kiss on Mars” and “Hickory Dichotomy” even work a Country angle into the Hard Rock proceedings.
One of the album’s great facets, and perhaps one of STP’s greatest gifts, is the tension between the effervescent music crafted by the DeLeos and the dark, deeply felt lyrics and amazing melodies woven into it by Weiland, particularly on “Hazy Days,” a peppy soundtrack that Weiland uses as a platform to address his stormy relationship with his father, and “Bagman,” a Beatles-drenched Pop fest featuring Weiland’s Bowiesque vocals in a tale about dysfunctional drug acquaintances.
It could all implode tomorrow, but what matters today is that Stone Temple Pilots have cranked out a bona fide classic.