You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger Scott Weiland fan than me, but I’ll be the first to admit that Stone Temple Pilots has always been more than just a vehicle for their former charismatic front man. If you have any doubts, take a listen to any of his solo discs or his final album before his untimely death with his band The Wildabouts. Scott rocked but he needed talented musicians to help him craft good songs. So that leads us to post-Weiland Stone Temple Pilots and what they’ve been up to since they kicked Scott out of the band for his substance abuse problems in early 2013.
Later that year they cut High Rise, a solid 5-song EP with singer Chester Bennington, but Bennington left the band two years later to focus on his primary gig with the band Linkin Park. Sadly, Weiland died less than a month later followed by Bennington’s suicide in 2017. After an exhaustive public search for a new lead singer including a three-song demo sent by yours truly, they released a self-titled album today with new vocalist and former X Factor contestant, Jeff Gutt.
Is it any good? It doesn’t come close to matching the band’s best music on their first two albums Core (1992) and Purple (1994) or the two albums Weiland made with Velvet Revolver, but it’s easily better than STP’s comeback album in 2010 and doesn’t feel out-of-place beside their third disc Tiny Music... Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop (1996), their 1999 effort No. 4, or Shangri-La Dee Da from 2001.
Brothers Dean and Robert DeLeo along with Eric Kretz still sound fantastic on guitar, bass, and drums. They haven’t lost a beat over the years and still know how to come up with a great hook. Gutt’s lyrics on this debut don’t quite measure up to the best that Weiland penned, but his voice is excellent. He’s got his own sound without being jarringly different from what we got accustomed to from Weiland leading the band.
The album opens solidly with the rocker “Middle of Nowhere” then really kicks into gear with the third track and first single, “Meadow”. From there, standout tracks include the ballad “The Art of Letting Go”, a rollicking song reminiscent of The Door’s classic “Roadhouse Blues” entitled “Never Enough”, and the country-rocker that closes out the disc, “Reds & Blues”.
All told, Stone Temple Pilots (2018) holds its own in the band’s 8-disc discography and is a welcome comeback for a band that’s suffered more than its share of heartbreak. Let’s hope Jeff Gutt sticks around for several albums to come.