Ever since their chart-topping debut “Core,” Stone Temple Pilots have born the brunt of an avalanche of criticism. But despite being dismissed by critics as blatant mimics of their grunge peers, STP was met with unprecedented amounts of commercial success early on in their career. The sound was still mean and massive, but what set STP apart was their boisterous demeanor. They lacked all the dull theatrics of Pearl Jam, the angsty brilliance of Kurt Cobain and the heroin-fueled murk of Alice in Chains. Even if their music was never as consistent qualitatively, STP never succumbed to outright imitation. It had its own voice — it was like grunge for the alpha-male except, you know, good.
But mid-way through the ’90s, front man Scott Weiland’s devastating and well-publicized spiral into heroin addiction derailed the band’s commercial success and acted as a catalyst for an endless string of near-break-ups until eventually leading to the group’s official dissolution in 2003.
The members veered off, toiling in their own respective projects that included Weiland’s short-lived role in the not-so-super supergroup Velvet Revolver. But by 2008 the band announced a reunion and set their emotional baggage aside to record a new self-titled album that was released in May.
“What brought us back together was actually going out and doing other things,” bassist Robert DeLeo said. “I think it was just getting reacquainted with each other and the best way to do that was to get in a room and start playing some songs we’re used to and that kind of brings you back because there’s a long-enough history there now.”
While the new album is certainly a step up from STP’s more recent efforts, it does little to catapult the band back to superstar status. Clocking in at 40 minutes, the end result is rife with over-polished mediocrity and sounds more like a diluted, half-baked cash-grab than a sincere comeback album.
Perhaps it’s the band’s lack of cohesion that accounts for the album’s shortcomings.
Weiland, who wrote the lyrics and recorded the vocals separately, seems utterly detached and exhausted as he sings, “You always were my favorite drug / Even when we used to take drugs.”
Even on the road Weiland operates solo, touring on his own bus with an assistant. But DeLeo explains that the behavior isn’t anything out of the ordinary.
“That’s the way we operate; it’s nothing really new. It’s just the way we prefer to do things,” DeLeo said. “We’ve been elbow-to-elbow, shoulder-to-shoulder for many, many years. I think we’re all entitled to that and you know that’s everybody’s preference to do that and if that’s what makes it work and keeps it together then so be it, man.”
To this day, the band’s fate still seems tied to Weiland’s tumultuous battle with addiction. Earlier this year Weiland — appearing lost — prompted the rest of the band to leave in the middle of their set after slurring and forgetting lyrics to their 1992 hit “Dead and Bloated.”
In a recent cover story published by Spin Magazine, DeLeo was quoted suggesting that, while Weiland had kicked heroin years ago, he suspected him of resorting to prescription pills as a substitute.
Cynics might have scoffed at the mere mention of a STP reunion, but even after almost two decades the band retains a large following, playing sold-out arenas across the country. While they might never be ushered into the pantheon of rock ’n’ roll, they’re a band who had greatness within arm’s reach and — in the end — stuck together, despite their frayed relationships. That’s much more than many of their grunge counterparts could attest to.