Purple by Stone Temple Pilots

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Purple by Stone Temple PilotsStone Temple Pilots reached their peak early in their career with the release of Purple in 1994. This second album builds off the sounds forged on the band’s 1992 debut album Core, while bringing that sound to a more enriched, mature, and entertaining level. This was accomplished by expanding on the sub-genres fused with the core hard-rock, grunge approach, utilizing some folk, jazz, funk, and Southern rock elements. Lyrically, the songs contain many references to vocalist and lyricist Scott Weiland‘s struggles with drug abuse and the collateral damage brought on by this addictions. This serves to add a tinge of darkness and foreboding to the otherwise inspiring musical vibes.

After the release of Core in September of 1992, the group received some negative reviews blasting them as “rip-offs” of more established contemporaries like Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana. However, these critical reviews were in sharp contrast to popular opinion, as illustrated in one Rolling Stone magazine poll where the band was simultaneously voted “Best New Band” by the magazine’s readers and “Worst New Band” by its music critics. Still, by the time the group returned to the studio to record this second album, they were determined to make their mark of distinction on the rock world.

Producer Brendan O’Brien was again brought on to strike the sonic balance of the raw compositions written by the band. Brothers Dean DeLeo and Robert DeLeo nearly equally shared the musical compositions, with Weiland later adding the melodies and lyrics. Production of the album was completed in less than a month, and Purple was greeted with great fanfare, debuting at number one in the U.S. upon its release.


Purple by Stone Temple Pilots
Released: June 7, 1994 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Brendan O’Brien
Recorded: Southern Tracks Studio, Atlanta, GA, Spring 1994
Track Listing Group Musicians
Meatplow
Vasoline
Lounge Fly
Interstate Love Song
Still Remains
Pretty Penny
Silvergun Superman
Big Empty
Unglued
Army Ants
Kitchenware & Candybars
Scott Weiland – Lead Vocals, Percussion
Dean DeLeo – Guitars, Drums
Robert DeLeo – Bass, Guitars
Eric Kretz – Drums, Percussion

Purple by Stone Temple Pilots

 

Dominated by dual guitar riffs of DeLeo brothers, “Meatplow” is a slow rocker that strategically bends flat in overall tone, starting the album with a methodical edge which slowly churns towards the desired vibe. “Vasoline” is less patient, with a pure rudimental riff by Robert DeLeo that at once contrasts and compliments Weiland’s melodic vocals. Released as a single, the song reached the top of the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks charts. The song verse’s syncopated riff in non-standard timing is grounded by the steady 4/4 beat of drummer Eric Kretz, which builds a rhythmic tension that is released in the chorus.

Kretz is particularly impressive with drums and percussion throughout “Lounge Fly”. This track starts with a unique, backwards-masked riff with interludes by complex, rolling drums before it works its way towards a more normal rock arrangement. During the middle section, this song moves to a pure acoustic folk arrangement with duet vocals before building back to a hard rock format with a screeching guitar lead credited to Paul Leary of the band Butthole Surfers.

Perhaps the best song ever composed by Stone Temple Pilots, “Interstate Love Song” leaves an indelible sonic impression on the listener and the succinct arrangement ferments a desire for more. The much too short acoustic intro by Robert DeLeo breaks into the finest of riffing, which alternates between the layered blues rock and twangy overdub of the interludes and the funky, crunchy riffs of the verses. Weiland’s vocals are also top notch and potent throughout, as he delivers the lyrics that deal with the lack of honesty in hiding his addiction to heroin;

Waiting on a Sunday afternoon for what I read between the lines, your lies, feelin’ like a hand in rusted shame, so do you laugh or does it cry? Reply?”

“Still Remains” has an almost outlaw country (or at least Southern-fried rock) approach with twangy guitar layers and more very good, moody vocals. Dean DeLeo’s “Pretty Penny” takes another radical turn in style with Eastern-flavored acoustic instruments and various hand percussion. This calm and steady track never relents by breaking into anything harder rocking and harkens back to the English folk of Traffic or even Jethro Tull, but with distinctive STP vocals during the chorus. By contrast, “Silvergun Superman” is a progressive song which gets better and better as it goes along. Starting with slow, heavy metal rock riffs, the chorus breaks into a soaring vocal and moving bass section and then bridge further adds variety to the arrangement before a shredding guitar lead brings this song up to yet the next level. However, there is a bizarre breakdown at the end of the track which is a bit unprofessional and drains all the afore momentum.

“Big Empty” is fueled by the bluesy and jazzy slide guitar of Dean DeLeo above the bouncy, funk bass of his brother Robert. The song originally appeared on the soundtrack to the movie The Crow and was later a successful single that reached the Top Ten of the Mainstream Rock charts. “Unglued” is, perhaps, the most upbeat and “dance-ready” rocker on Purple, short but sweet and entertaining with none of the droning of most of the other tracks. Another unique track, “Army Ants” starts with a moody, descending riff, drenched in heavy flange before it breaks into a harder rocking song that jams at top level for a couple verses and choruses before returning to the intro part and starting all over. The closer “Kitchenware & Candybars” may be the most melodramatic of all tracks complete with orchestral effects by O’Brien. The song includes a hidden twelfth track sung as a lounge song by guest Richard Peterson, who provides a closing overture that explains the album’s back cover, which displays a cake with the phrase “12 Gracious Melodies”.

Within a few months of its release, Purple had sold over three million copies and propelled the band to headliner status. The following year, Stone Temple Pilots recorded their third album, Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, which took an even more radical music departure. Here critics were more favorable to the band’s sound, while fans were not quite so impressed.

~

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1994 albums.

 

Core by Stone Temple Pilots

Core by Stone Temple PilotsAround 1990, a hard rock band from San Diego, CA called Mighty Joe Young recorded a demo featuring some unorthodox musical styles, such as funk and yodeling and soon began to attract a fan-base in Southern California. After the group was signed to Atlantic Records and began work on their first professional studio album, they received a call from their lawyer who informed them that there was a blues-man who had already claimed the name Mighty Joe Young.  So the group hastily chose the name Stone Temple Pilots, after the STP motor oil stickers that adorned their rehearsal space, and continued on to record what would become their debut album Core.

The “core” of this group is Singer Scott Weland and bassist Robert DeLeo, who first met in 1986 and had performed together in various bands since. DeLeo later recruited his older brother Dean DeLeo as the band’s guitarist with drummer Eric Kretz rounding out the quartet. Although all four contributed to the songs on the album, Robert DeLeo wrote the bulk of the compositions with Weiland applying much lyrical content, forging a distinctly flavored version of grunge metal.

The album was released in September of 1992 but original received mixed to very negative reviews, with some critics blasting the more popular songs as “rip-offs” of more established grunge bands and the lesser know material as “pedestrian”. While there is no denying that the band incorporates several signature elements of contemporary bands Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana, the very fact that so many of the songs on Core have held up over the past two decades is testament to the quality of this material.

 


Core by Stone Temple Pilots
Released: September 29, 1992 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Brendan O’Brien
Recorded: 1991-1992
Track Listing Band Musicians
Dead and Bloated
Sex Type Thing
Wicked Garden
No Memory
Sin
Naked Sunday
Creep
Piece of Pie
Plush
Wet My Bed
Crackerman
Where the River Goes
Scott Weiland – Lead Vocals
Dean DeLeo – Guitars
Robert DeLeo – Bass
Eric Kretz– Drums
 
Core by Stone Temple Pilots

 

A distant rap commences the album and its initial track, “Dead & Bloated”, which breaks into a slow and methodical riff and beat, During live renditions of this track, Weiland often hands a bullhorn to a fan to perform the intro. “Sex Type Thing” was the debut single from the album and the most controversial on the album due to its first person telling of perpetrating a rape (although Weiland contends its purpose was anti-rape). Musically, the song is much more upbeat, with DeLeo crediting “In the Light” by Led Zeppelin as a primary influence on the main riff.

“Wicked Garden” is one of the signature songs on the album, with a series of distinct sections, each lead by pristine vocal motifs fueled by melody. Weiland revealed that the song about people allowing all their innocence and purity to be lost from their lives. Following the calm, picked guitar instrumental by Dean DeLeo called “No Memory”, “Sin” commences with a splash but is overall a weaker attempt at another anthem song like “Wicked Garden”. The only refreshing part is an acoustic section later in the song, but it breaks away too early for a sub-par guitar lead.

Robert DeLeo wrote the calm, melodic, melancholy, acoustic ballad “Creep”, which he says was influenced by Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”. This radio hit never really deviates too much from its dark temperament, with Weiland doing his best Kurt Cobain vocal impression for the melodramatic lyrics.

What would become one of the band’s biggest all-time hits, “Plush” is built on a unique chord structure which was inspired by Robert DeLeo’s love of ragtime music. Lyrically, the song was loosely based on a newspaper article Weiland had read about a girl who had been found dead in an area outside of San Diego. The song won a Grammy award for “Best Hard Rock Performance” in 1994 and the award-winning video won an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist that same year.

But aside from “Plush”, much of the later part of the album is sub-par at best. “Piece of Pie” sounds worn out with the same old drum beat driving once again while “Wet My Bed” is an ill-advised, superfluous filler. Although “Crackerman” received a fair amount of radio airplay, it has been accurately critiqued as “a bad Alice in Chains parody”, and the closer “Where the River Goes” is a leftover from the Mighty Joe Young demo which probably should have been left off the album. In the case of these tracks, less would have been more in forging a consistent and rewarding album.

Stone Temple Pilots, built on the success of Core with a couple more residual albums through the mid nineties, before substance abuse brought them back to Earth. Today, several of this album’s songs remain rock radio staples and the band’s position in the pantheon of heavy grunge is secure.

~
R.A.
 


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