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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Stone Temple Pilots

Core

Review by Scott Prinzing

It’s interesting listening to something nearly two decades after it was first released and trying to recall your first impressions.  While Stone Temple Pilots made quite a splash with this debut in 1992, their blend of classic rock, metal and experimental pop was never sustained beyond a selection of hits.  That makes this album the only really essential one to purchase.  There are a few strong songs on each subsequent album, but like so many bands who hit pay dirt on their first major label outing, it seems like mega-stardom is beyond their reach.  Listening to this almost two decades after its release, Core sounds surprisingly fresh.  Scott Weiland now sounds more like himself rather than his influences.  The DeLeo brothers’ very Zeppelin-esque riffs hold up well. 

Track by Track Review
Dead & Bloated

Kicking off their debut with a Lo-Fi acappella chant by singer Scott Weiland makes for a distinct introduction from this band. The heavy de-tuned grunge riff is still one of the most powerful from that era. Here the band rocks as heavy as Alice in Chains, with lyrics as vague and powerful as Soundgarden, and vocals that seem to sit right in the middle of those bands’ Layne Staley and Chris Cornell, and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, with the ghost of Jim Morrison along for the ride. “I am smelling like the rose / That somebody gave me / On my birthday deathbed / I am smelling like the rose / That somebody gave me / I’m so dead and bloated.”

Sex Type Thing

This is the first song I ever heard by STP.  Or should I say "the first song I saw?There was a time when most of the new songs and groups were experienced initially on MTV.  I still have the image of the video in my mind whenever I hear this song.  While it’s still a chunk of driving grunge metal, it’s hard to believe Weiland’s explanation that this song was somehow an anti-misogynist statement: “I said I gonna get close to you / You wouldn’t want me to have to hurt you too?”

Wicked Garden

This is still my favorite song from this album after all these years.  It’s a perfect blend of grunge metal, Morrison-esque vocals and pop hook.  Everybody, raise your fists and sing, “Burn, burn, burn / Burn your wicked garden to the ground!”

No Memory

This short instrumental interlude that leads us into “Sin” is a very cool blend of the Doors and Metallica.

Sin
With a main riff that sounds like a sped up “Kashmir,” this song still holds its own massive sound, with a vocal melody that draws more from Morrison than Robert Plant.  The sin in question is apparently alcohol: “Holywater clouds my thinking / Sinking low / Keep on drinking.”
Naked Sunday

The one song with a full group writing credit, this manages to speed along with a bit of funk and almost rap-like verses, while never sounding like nu metal.  There’s even a bit of pulpit-preaching: “An eye for an eye / A tooth for a tooth / Turn the other cheek aside.”

Creep

One of the biggest hits for the band, this probably was the main source of the naysayers who claimed that STP were Pearl Jam wannabes.  It probably didn’t help that there’s a line that seemingly mimics “Jeremy,” with “Everybody run / Bobby’s got a gun.”  In any case, this song is part of the legacy of the grunge era and has become a classic rock standard.

Piece of Pie

This is yet another fine blending of Zeppelin riff with Doors melody.  It could almost be a Soundgarden song, underscoring that the whole grunge sound owed more to those bands than the punk foundation that the critics seemed to latch onto.  The lyrics even sound like Morrison scribblings: “I killed the manchild / I’ll fast alone / I had the midwife / Naked and alone.”

Plush

This one is the contender for biggest STP hit.  The unplugged version recorded later in the year is as good as the original.  Like several of these songs, it was already a few years old when this album was recorded.  I have never been quite sure what it’s about, but it’s always sounded kind of disturbing, like a David Lynch film: “And I feel, and I feel / When the dogs begin to smell her / Will she smell alone?”

Wet My Bed

Here’s a bit of Pink Floyd, a bit of the Doors, a bit of Queensryche; another short, interlude that would never make it on a “best of” compilation.

Crackerman

The megaphone appears in a call and response with Weiland and himself. It’s yet another memorable hard driving track that still holds up.  The gender-bending lyric sounds a bit familiar at times: “Trippin’ as I’m thinkin’ / ‘Bout a boy, his name was Sue / Crackerman, crackerman / He’s a woman too.”

Where the River Goes

The album closes with slow groove that sounds like a heavier version of Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.”  There is some cool soloing on the outro that sounds like East Indian reed instrument.  The lyrics, like most of Weiland’s, sound cooler when he sings them than when they appear in print: “I wanna be as big as a mountain / I wanna fly as high as the sun / I wanna know what the rent’s like in heaven / I wanna know where the river flows.” 

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