Anyone who knows a little of Stone Temple Pilots’ history and legacy will be curious to see how new singer Jeff Gutt gets on filling some rather massive shoes. How must that feel to replace two huge names in rock history (namely, original singer Scott Weiland and later, briefly, Chester Bennington) who have now since passed away?
Jeff Gutt may not be a huge name in the rock arena, yet, but I am inclined to trust that the band knew what they were looking for and he ticked all their boxes. Founding member Dean DeLeo said:
We wanted someone who would not only do our earlier songs justice, but would also write new songs and carve out a different path forward with us. It took some time, but we found our guy.
There’s no doubt he has a strong voice. I am finding he brings a satisfying blend of fresh energy with a gritty enough delivery to carry off the STP style. Jeff’s voice does have haunting echoes of the late Scott’s and I did find myself purposefully listening a little closer for the similarity while trying to not let that override my judgement. But I think once you let go of any comparison and realise this is a set of new songs that can’t really be compared the STP days of old, then all in all this is a very delectable album.
Opening track “Middle of Nowhere” serves as a welcome reintroduction to the new package. Fast-paced and lyrically packed, we are shown from the get-go that STP are back in the room as they showcase some of that fresh energy along with a sturdy nod back to the 90s.
Next up, “Guilty” demonstrates Jeff’s impressive vocal range as he powers through the octaves. “Roll Me Under” has so far struck me as the highlight and was a sensible choice of single along with “Meadow”. Both have the signature style STP have become known for and yet the new blood is definitely injecting a renewed vitality.
By track 9 the intensity drops to make way for a couple of gentler tracks such as “The Art of Letting Go”, “Finest Hour” and album closer “Reds and Blues”, all of which have their place on a record like this. With those minor chords and beautiful harmonies on “Finest Hour” and dripping melancholy on “Reds and Blues” they make for worthy additions to mellow out to, without trying to copy the intensity of Core’s “Creep”. I’d have loved DeLeo’s guitar solo to have played out a while longer as the song fades away, allowing for more time to contemplate the album as it comes to a close.
I’ve been humming Velvet Revolver tunes in my head since giving this album several listens, which is no bad thing, but while this album doesn’t carry the obvious swagger that the supergroup had, it definitely has a potency of its own and if nothing else will serve as a perfect starting point from which the new line-up can grow and develop.
Ultimately though, as much as I want to love this album, and it is undoubtedly a solid record, it doesn’t dip into my soul and take a piece like the 90s albums did. That could be a lot to do with the fact that both I and they were 20 years younger back then! Or maybe I just haven’t yet learned ‘the art of letting go’…
Second opinion from Ross:
Scott Weiland, is that you? Well, that was my initial thought the first time I heard Jeff Gutt’s voice. Stone Temple Pilots took up a large portion of my listening as a teenager, in amongst Velvet Revolver, Alter Bridge, Slash (and the rest), System of a Down and countless other bands. Core was a cut above the rest so when Weiland left Velvet Revolver (read: fired) and returned to Stone Temple Pilots, their idea of having a self-titled album made me think it’d be like Core or Purple. When Chester Bennington took up lead vocals, I was wary but their EP was good and they had the sense to call it Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington. Mainly because Weiland was one of those special, larger-than-life characters rock music can never replace.
So with another self-titled album and another fresh singer, Stone Temple Pilots are back. Imagine it like this: you’re about to bite into the best steak of your life, you cut it, you raise the fork to your mouth and as soon as you begin to chew, it turns to ash. That’s what this album is. Stone Temple Pilots have gotten a vocalist so similar to Weiland, it’s uncanny but without the same bravado and whilst Bennington pulled them forward into 2013’s (at the time) present, Gutt pulls them back into the past. Stone Temple Pilots evolved their sound through their albums and this is a definite search to get back to their dark, grungy sounds of the first two albums with the pop leanings of the first self-titled… but at the same time, it sounds like a completely different band. A name change would have been more preferable here or bill it as Stone Temple Pilots with Jeff Gutt.
The first half feels like an homage to their past, trying to recapture something they’ll never get back whilst the second half is just dull and insipid. However, special mention has to go to “Meadow” for basically writing a song which could have been on Velvet Revolver’s Libertad. Again, however, it lacks the bravado and passion of Weiland which runs through the entire album even if the entire band are trying their best to channel Weiland’s other band, even down to the production. I’m not saying it’s the worst album ever, you can thank Metallica for that but there’s nothing here which redeems it. As the album limps to its finish line, the nostalgia that anyone is looking to recapture with this will have evaporated. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to one of their good albums.