Tag Archives: Stone Temple Pilots

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

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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Back To Black – 2014: A Year In Vinyl (Part 4 of 4 – the Final Five!)

Welcome back to 2014: A Year In Vinyl.  The final five and, as you would expect, a mix of old and new favourites.  I’ve been right excited about all o’ these and they get heavy rotation around here.  Quick photos as I’m on a tight schedule … being that I’m spending this evening listening to music tunes.  Hurrah!

# 5 Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music (2014)

An artist that I became aware of in 2014 thanks to my friend Paul over at Blabber ‘n’ Smoke.  He reviewed it back in May and that convinced me to check the dude out.  Glad I did.  It’s an incredible record filled with existentialism and taking Gram Parsons’ cosmic American music to a whole other level.  Outstanding stuff.  I picked up the vinyl from HMV (urgh) for £12.99.  Luckily for me, this doesn’t include the spoiler, Panbowl, that Paul mentions (I would like to hear that one, though).

# 4 Queens of the Stone Age – … Like Clockwork (2013)

I finally nabbed a couple of the albums that I missed last year, but this one was the pick of them.  Probably cause this was the album that I dug most and it’s also a band that I’m pretty mad about.  Unfortunately, it’s the standard edition, but it’s still a pretty glorious package – the artwork is really pretty grand, so too is the gatefold, inserts and the labels.  The album itself sounds utterly magnificent.

# 3 The Afghan Whigs – Do To The Beast (2014)

My favourite album of 2014.  On nice vinyl.  Lordy!   Why #3 and not #1?  Well, cause there’s that little flaw on Side D that I’d had issues with Amazon over (replacements also had the flaw and they didn’t at all seem concerned when I pointed out the information on Sub Pop’s website).  In the end they gave me a refund.  Don’t get me wrong, that flaw aside, this is a beautiful thing.  Gatefold sleeve, nice big booklet and some really wonderful labels.  All dark and such-like.  It cost me zero pennies, so I can’t complain too much (if at all).

# 2 Stone Temple Pilots – Purple (1994)

This Music On Vinyl press was a birthday gift from my wife.  Purple is one of those all-timers that headed the ‘list’.  I had lost out on an original copy on eBay when the bidding got too rich, and copies of that original on Discogs are over £50.  Anyway, this was the first MoV reissue that I heard and it was on the strength of this that I snapped up another three (Dust, The Afghan Whigs’ Black Love and Tiny Music …).  It’s really pretty brilliant – having never heard the original vinyl pressing, I really have nothing to compare it to; however, everything I read suggested this was more dynamic.  Against the CD, though? Yeah – I felt that straight off when Meatplow kicked in.  2014 was certainly the year of really falling in love with this one all over again.

# 1 Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral (2012)

I didn’t have a record player at the time that was released, so it had been on my list of records to pick up and I was fairly chuffed to find it in HMV when they were having some ‘massive stock clearance’ with a mighty ‘up to 70% off’.  Usually means ‘selling-all-the-same-stuff-on-sale-that-we-can’t-get-rid-of-even-when-it’s-on-sale’, but a couple o’ pennies off this one meant it was a no-brainer at £15.  Everything about this is incredible.  The songs, the beautiful gatefold and all it’s wonderful art … and those incredibly heavy green records.  Just wow.

Part 3 – #10 to #6

Music on Vinyl reissues: Purple, Black Love and Tiny Music …

I have to admit that I’ve been a bit dubious about reissues.  Not really the result of bad experience as much as other folks expressing their troubles with the format these days.  Most of this is focused on the quality of the pressing (warping, noisy and off-center pressings being a bit more common due to the loss of experience in a dying format) and the source material (most of the analogue tapes no longer exist having been digitized in some archive and a lack of effort with mastering).  Things that made sense to me.  However, my brother has been fairly impressed with some recent reissues and a friend told me that their L.A. Woman reissue is pretty wonderful.  I was also fair impressed with the reissues of American Recordings and Purple and decided to opt for some reissues instead of some very pricey originals.

1795799_10152377306217848_1220534332_oMy copy of Stone Temple Pilots’ Purple is the recent Music on Vinyl pressing (on black vinyl) and it sounds great.  It’s an album that means a helluva lot to me.  It’s right there in my top 10 (if not top 5).  I’ve missed out on a few copies on ebay and have hovered over the ‘add to cart’ on Discogs often enough.  My wife is aware of this, which is why she picked me up this copy.  It’s a beautiful thing.  It really is.  I’ve been hearing parts of it clearer than I ever did.  It’s a really great sounding record – nice and dynamic.

Given that I was impressed with the reissues I decided to order a few more last week.  Two of which are Music on Vinyl pressings: The Afghan Whigs’ Black Love and Tiny Music … Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop – another Stone Temple Pilots.  Both were originally released in 1996 and both have been favourites of mine for as long as I remember.  Black Love arrived yesterday, while Tiny Music … landed today.  So, of the 5 reissues I have, or will have, three are Music on Vinyl.  All sound great.  Rich and dynamic.  To these ears they all sound more vibrant than the CD copies I have.  Massive improvements in the mid-range and I can hear more little intricacies than I ever knew where there.  As a result, I’m again reminded that I don’t know some albums as well as I thought!

I had Black Love spinning last night and earlier today.  I’ll be getting to know this ahead of Do To The Beast arriving (I have that on pre-order).  Although I’ve always considered the playing to be quite brilliant, I was hearing exactly why Greg Dulli says John Curley is his favourite bass player.  The backing vocals were clearer and the guitars are ridiculous – the sparring between Dulli and McCollum is one of the key ingredients of the Whigs and I can’t think of a better pairing.  Perhaps I’m hearing it differently as McCollum is missing from the new album.  I dunno.

tinyI had Tiny Music … cooking the speakers this afternoon.  Right from the off I was hearing a different version of the album.  Aside from the extended Press Play, it actually seemed a bit heavier.  I haven’t compared it to the CD, but it doesn’t sound as compressed.  It sounds nice and rounded.

My only gripe about all of these would be with the artwork.  Reproductions of the original releases and I expect high resolution images have not been available.  Can’t quite understand why.  But, yeah, the art isn’t quite perfect, colour maybe a bit too hard – with some saturation (perhaps to cover pixelation and such).  Still, it’s a small gripe.  MoV really has done a great job in bringing new life to these albums.  From what I’ve read, they’re also considered by those owning both to be better than the original, more expensive, pressings … but then, I guess music is all about what you hear and find, eh?  … and, of course, the system you’re listening on.  Personally, I’m impressed and over the moon at owning some more of my favourite albums on vinyl.

* according to Music on Vinyl, the source material for all three are high-res audio files (192 kHz / 24-bit) of the original masters.

 

New additions: my first ‘reissued vinyl’.

So.  It was my birthday this week and knowing how totally immersed I am in music, and vinyl, my wife picked me up a couple of my favourite albums.  Both originally released in 1994 – Stone Temple Pilots’ Purple (the MoV reissue on black vinyl) and Johnny Cash’s American Recordings (the new, and very nice, 180 gram reissue). I had both of these on CD, but had been keen on getting my hands on the vinyl.  In fact, over the last 12 months I’d lost out on copies of the original issues when the bidding on ebay got a little to pricey.  To be expected, I guess.  I guess I was never really willing to pay too much for the original pressing of Purple.  Mostly because everything I’d read had suggested it was sorta flat. Anyhoo, I haven’t heard the original vinyl pressings of either of these, so really have nothing to compare them to in that respect.  However, against the CD it’s clear there’s a difference.  I think.  Purple is certainly more dynamic … I felt that straight off when Meatplow kicked in.

I love both of these and I’ll certainly be posting my thoughts when I listen a bit more.  I’m sure my wife is pleased to hear these echo throughout the house as she tries to get some work done …