no. 4So, 1999.  The Eve of the Millennium.  There were a few things I remember well.  The biggest thing – and the most bonkers – was the big dark cloud that loomed like the wormhole that opened over Stark Tower.  Complete global meltdown.  The annihilation of everything that makes the world tick: The Millennium Bug.  Folks walked around wondering if they would have functioning technology in a few months.  Would the internet break? Would planes fall from the sky?  Would we awake to a new, post-apocalyptic existence.  Menfolk becoming hunter-gatherers, while the womenfolk sew and throw some food together and the brainyfolk set about reinventing things that we used to take advantage of.

For me, though, the fall of 1999 was all about the return of Stone Temple Pilots.  The most awesomest of alternative rock n’ rollers. By this point they’d released two utterly wonderful albums in Purple and Tiny Music … Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, but they still endured a fair bit of criticism.  Some of it about their front-man Weiland and his troubles; some of it about them being some second-rate grunge band. For me, Stone Temple Pilots were more than a ‘grunge band’ (or the “Pearl Jam copyists” that some claimed).  I’ve often discussed this with friends of mine over the years – especially the ‘grunge lite’ tag, Weiland’s harmonies and the fact that they were a band that were more creative than many of those considered to be their peers.  They were more original and dynamic and, quite frankly, there wasn’t a band at that time who had the attack, swagger and hooks they had going on.  Anyway, despite all the problems and the madness, Stone Temple Pilots were back with their fourth album, simply titled No. 4.  Forget the Millennium Bug, suckers!
lyricsFrom the first couple of seconds of Down it’s clear that this one is a darker album than its predecessor.  Likely the result of Weiland’s troubles with addiction and suchlike.  He doesn’t sound angry about the trouble he’s been in, but he sounds mighty conflicted.  Weiland alludes to his complicated relationship with the drugs when he sings “You can get it if you really want it, but you better off just leave it alone. You won’t forget it if you ever had it, so you’re better off just staying at home” (Heaven & Hot Rods) and “Falling fast but doing all I can. I know the questions but I lost the answers.  I got the message and the message stood” (Pruno).  While Down was heavy musically, Heaven & Hot Rods and Pruno are possibly the heaviest two punch combo in the Pilots’ canon due to the weight in Weiland’s lyrics and performance (not something you’ll read every day!).  Three songs in and Stone Temple Pilots are rocking like a burned-out star.  Those same influences are buzzing about, but the texture is all rough and distorted.  The psychedelic grooves and bass runs of DeLeo are really pretty special during Church on Tuesday and Sour Girl (about the break-down of Weiland’s marriage).

Not that Side 1 was guilty of slouching, but Side 2 really turns things up a notch.  No Way Out kicks things off and rocks that shit up, there’s some more weight in Weiland’s lyrics, too (“I’ve been a walking a lonesome highway. I felt as though I had no home”) but the band really do hit their stride.  Sex & Violence thrashes like some metallic serpent as Weiland revisits a past relationship (quite possibly the subject of Sour Girl), before he asks for a bit of faith during the pretty brilliant Glide (“just give me half a chance from throwing it all away”).  Glide is awesome – it really is.  The riff and the cajoling bass … and even Kretz on the kit!  Man, it’s so good.  Weiland also sounds pretty excellent on here.  Clean, inspired and showing off his range.  I Got You is also pretty brilliant.  Weiland is lyrically pretty open here – chatting about his troubles and that relationship that he just can’t walk away from.  MC5 and Atlanta, though – for so long I put those two tracks back-to-back on every mix-tape I would make.  One drenched with the punk influences of the Stooges and, well, MC5, and the other The Doors.  Seriously good stuff.
stpbackIt’s often been suggested that Scott Weiland’s struggles with drug addiction had been the reason that the band never quite reached the highs expected.  Those highs, I imagine, being the commercial success enjoyed by the likes of the bands that critics claimed they mimicked following the success of Purple.  I’m not so sure about that, though; Weiland is an interesting chap and a key to the band’s sound (listen to Talk Show, Army of Anyone or even Stone Temple Pilots featuring Chester Bennington if you don’t believe me).  He’s abstract both as a vocalist and song-writer.  His phrasing, delivery and sense of melody are so important to the feel of Purple and Tiny Music … Gifts from the Vatican Gift Shop, and it’s no different here.  His lyrics are often poignant and ludicrous (“she walkedin with her alligator sister”, etc), but he delivers them with a tremendous amount of verve and style.

One of the big criticisms of No.4 is the sound (‘brick walled’ – trust me, there’s a lot of gripes out there), though I personally thought it suited the material.  Music On Vinyl’s release is cut from a 24 bit / 192 kHz digital master and actually sounds a little different to the CD to these ears.  There’s a bit more space and mid-range, but the nature of it hasn’t been altered. The way it was mixed was intentional and one of the main reasons I love this one.  It’s claustrophobic and a bit stressed.  Maybe how Weiland felt.  How the band felt, in fact.  Regardless, it’s a big metallic motherfucker of an album and one worth setting aside 40 odd minutes for.

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40 thoughts on ““She walked in with her alligator sister trying to get to Heaven on Sunday”: Stone Temple Pilots – No. 4 (1999)

      1. I thought as since i was older guy listening to Core when it came out was a great album! Wicked Garden man…love that track when they came unglued so did I as a listener ….

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      2. Core is a fine album; in fact, I was listening to it the other day. For my money, though, the sense of adventure was boosted by Weiland’s misadventure!

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      1. Well, I’m blaming Scott Weiland for this grievous error. He screwed them out of the rock ‘n roll throne basically.

        If you ever get the chance, you really should listen to ‘Tiny Music’ and ‘No.4’. I believe you’d find something to enjoy on both.

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    1. Shocker! I agree with Mr Hubner there – you’d definitely find something you like in ‘Tiny Music’ and this one.

      Besides, you can get both on nice shiny 180 gram vinyl 😉

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  1. With each album I fell harder and harder for STP…and at the same time I found myself resenting Weiland more and more. It seemed he pretty much screwed up every chance they had at world domination. For all we know, if he had gotten his s**t together back in 94′, a bloke like Mr. 1537 could have experienced the STP magic while it was still fresh in the air.

    Sad to say, that won’t happen. And even more sad is that the DeLeo brothers never got the real respect they deserved. Dean DeLeo was a completely underrated guitarist, and Robert was a hell of a songwriter. Their talents were shadowed by Scott Weiland’s addiction and ego. Now, Weiland was just as big a part of their success, I’m not saying that. I think he had a lot to do with the direction that ‘Tiny Music’ went, which was a genius mix of glam and punk. I think ‘Tiny Music’ was their shining moment…and had they been able to tour and promote that record like they should have I believe STP would have completely dominated the rock and roll scene for the remainder of the 90s. Sadly, Scott had to get busted(yet again) and that album was basically a still birth.

    One good thing came out of that fiasco, 1997s Talk Show record. That album killed.

    ‘No.4’ was dark and heavy, and a welcome return. At times it felt like it was trying too hard to be heavier than STP really was, but I think that had just as much to do with Brendan O’Brien’s production. Still, some classic tracks, like “Heaven & Hot Rods”, “Pruno”, “Church On Tuesday”, and “No Way Out”. Hell, they even named a song that sounds like MC5 “MC5”.

    Great write up, sir. An underrated record, for sure. And a great palate cleanser to 3 years of limbo.

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    1. Thanks for this comment, man – seriously. I’ve said it before (when I posted about the Wildabouts album) that I can’t help but root for Weiland. That said, for such a long time it irked me that he was, in a sense, holding the Pilots back. But something changed – I couldn’t help but focus on the fact that the music they were making appeared to be the result of Weiland’s problems and the relationships they had.

      On the surface of it it’s all ego and suchlike, but there’s so many complex issues there. I’m of the opinion that had he sorted his shit out STP wouldn’t have been the interesting band that they would eventually become with each release. That’s not to say that there were missed opportunities … and man would I have loved to have seen STP dominate the remainder of the 90s (and then some).

      As for that Talk Show album – I dig that one a lot. I really do – but, Coutts just didn’t have the melodies or vigour that Weiland does. I mean, Weiland is ridiculous – how he threw words together and how creative he was delivering them. That’s ultimately what differentiated that album and the STP stuff. Still, it’s a great album, but not STP great-great.

      I remember when I heard No. 4 for the first time I just thought “this!”. It was such a kick-ass return and they really did sound like a band who’d threw all this frustration out there. They cooked and, despite the complaints over the sound, I think Brendan O’Brien captured that.

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    1. Thanks, Bruce. I thoroughly recommend this lot to anyone – particularly the three album run I mentioned there (Purple, Tiny Music and this one). All really great albums.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tempted to look into this band after reading this. I’m in the same boat as Mr 1537 although I’m sure I have heard some songs… I just can’t remember which ones or what they were like! The only Weiland album I’m at all familiar with is the first Velvet Revolver one.

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    1. I’d imagine you’ve heard the likes of Plush, Sex Type Thing, Creep (all from Core) or Vasoline, Big Empty and Interstate Love Song (Purple). They were all fairly well played on the radio back in the day. I’d recommend (very highly) investigating further (as you can tell!).

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      1. I believe Crackerman was a staple in the VR set. Totally worked with their vibe, too (Core is probably the least STP sounding album, which is strange given it’s probably a favourite among folks and the one that defined them to many – that’s just my opinion, right enough).

        As for STP and Chester: it’s not terrible, but he really doesn’t bring anything, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just go back to Talk Show (I would have liked to have heard that). Cynic in me says that it’s cause Talk Show didn’t have the same pull as STP did. Seriously, Chester is pointless.

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      2. Cool. I thought you might feel that way about it.

        I managed to find the setlist for the VR show I saw and the did indeed do Crackerman but also Sex Type Thing. So I have heard both those songs… but I couldn’t hum you them!

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      3. Of course! They played that when I saw them, too (SECC in 2005 per chance?). Both are smashin’ tunes and definitely worth having a wee shifty at.

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  3. You make me want to get this again. I had it, years ago, and it went out like they most do, likely needing money more than I need Weiland. I have to admit, I am more of a Core/Purple guy, but that’s probably only because I saw them live in the summer of ’94, opening for the Stones. Complete with couch on stage for the mid-set breakdown. Ah yes, Purple was riding high and it was fun. The washed-out older Stones fans didn’t know what to make of them but we young ‘uns sure did.

    Yup. Dammit, J. Adding to Toronto shopping list… this blogging thing is dangerous. You’re getting as bad as 1537! 😉

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    1. You absolutely must! As I mentioned to Deke, I recommend at least 2 doses of STP a week. Choose your poison!

      That Stones show would have been pretty special. I would have loved to have witnessed that – I got Sheryl Crow when I caught the Stones. Not dreadful, of course … but not STP.

      I only saw STP once. At the ‘world famous Barrowlands’ back in 2001. They were great. Even made time for the wee mellow set.

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  4. I’ll have to check this one out. I lost track of ST after Tiny Music, but you make this one sound pretty good. I’m a big fan too, but have you read Weiland’s book? I thought he really came off like an ads hole in it.

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    1. It’s been on my Amazon list for so long, but I’ve just not been inclined to buy it. From what I gather it’s also pretty short?

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      1. I probably got it through an inter-library loan. Those blue hairs are usually really happy to help.

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