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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Stone Temple Pilots: "Purple"

I can remember the first time I'd ever heard of Stone Temple Pilots. I was a young teen, sitting in my room listening to the local "alternative rock" radio station. The name of the song had been, "Interstate Love Song" (not among their first hits). I was not only enthralled by the song, but almost grateful for their unique sound. Every now and then, you'll hear a band/singer, and you know that their sound is set apart, much like Kurt Cobain, Rage Against the Machine, Chris Cornell. Stone Temple Pilots belong in this category. Long story short, I decided that I would save up my money and buy their new album, Purple. I instantly loved the album and to this day it is one of my all time favorites.

Purple begins with a track called "Meatplow". Immediately they break through the silence with a magnificent sound of dominance in the guitar riff that moves on to the intro (note: turn this one up loud). The sound of this track is raw and defined in that it doesn't often stray from the precise rhythm it puts forth, yet the rawness of the guitars and vocals are capitivating. The melody also takes some interesting and unexpected turns, particularly during the chorus. Not to mention the listener isn't expecting this smooth chorus to be inserted in this percusive track. The use of dissonant notes in this song, is also appropriate. The second track on the album, "Vasoline", went on to become one of their bigger hits and is now even featured in the new video game, "Rockband". There are so many memorable elements in this song that it's hard to disect into individual segments. "Vasoline" begins with a musical fade in. The hook in this song is easily recognizable while the verses are brief and articulate (no jumbling or mumbling of words). Lead vocalist, Scott Weiland, sings, "Isn't you, isn't me, search for things that you can't see. Going blind, out of reach, somewhere in the vasoline." Makes no sense to me either, but who cares. The lyrics make you think, unlike the more current "My girl's in the next room, sometimes I wish she was you" lyrics of artists nowadays. In "Vasoline" you will also find the more interesting percussion sections including the use of what sounds to be a djembe (you'll really hear it almost immediately after the second chorus).

The next track, titled "Lounge Fly", is a track I could definitely live without, partially due to its association with the intro to the earlier "MTV news" break. The lyrics are okay and while the song is not uninteresting, it has a few elements that I am not a huge fan of. Parts of the song are a bit harder to understand as Weiland is not too articulate. The music is just okay in what seems to be played out as a relatively "safe" song; no big changes that make this song stand out. In fact, the only thing that seems to change in this song at all is the bridge that leads into the guitar solo. Other than that, you may often find yourself skipping over this track. The next track, "Interstate Love Song" was a huge hit and again, the reason I bought Purple in the first place. Not only will you most likely end up singing along with this track, you should not soon forget it. It's wonderfully executed for so many reasons. It has several great guitar riffs, it's catchy, the structure of this song is well set up, and the lyrics are memorable and singable. The chorus "Leavin' on a southern train, only yesterday, you lied. Promises of what I seemed to be only watched the time go by. All of these things you said to me". While again, vague, the listener appreciates the fact that its memorable and that he/she can sing along.

By this point in the album, it's probably best to steer clear of any lyrical interpetation, because you'd probably be way off...and having said that, I'll ignore my own advice and tell you that I believe that "Still Remains" deals with sex and border line love and obsession. The music is a little edgy and pleasant at the same time, but the vocal melody is not my favorite. The words, "Pick a song and sing a yellow nectarine" are a mixed up amusement, while "Take a bath, I'll drink the water that you leave" is a bit, well, freaky. Lyrically, it's a super intriguing song, but musically, it leaves a little to be desired. I much prefer it to "Lounge Fly" though. "Pretty Penny" is a nice accoustic change to all the electric guitars thus far. It has a warmer feel to it and is very apt to pull you in. There are some really good things that happen in the chorus, particularly with the guitar and its melody. It's pretty unique. It also appears that the djembe has returned as the primary percussion. "Pretty Penny" is totally opened to interpretation; drug use, death, runaways, abandonment... but alas, I know I'd be way off if I tried. The best I can do is to offer a few lyrics. The song begins, "Have you seen your mother girl? Has she gone away? Gone away and found the pearl, but the price she paid, gone. When you wake in the morning, gone. When you find that there's no one sleeping, gone. Pretty Penny was her name. She was loved and we all will miss her". It's an intriguing song that may take a few listens to get used to, but is ultimately worth every minute.

"Silvergun Superman" does a complete 360 from the tone that the previous track set. It's louder, edgier, electric guitars are back, and Weiland's vocals are more proclamative. I like this track because its sound differs from their other tracks on this album. It's similar to something you'd hear on their previous album, Core. The lyrics are not terribly spectacular, but musically, it's a good song, especially the further you get into it. The bridge and the guitar solo at the end of this song are both great, especially the solo, which is quite reminesent of an 80's guitar solo. Again, a pretty good song. "Big Empty" is softer, yet definitely packs a punch in the entertainment category. The lyrics are fabulous, the melody is memorable, and the musicality is definitely up there. Weiland's vocals are superb, yet more subdued in volume, a nice effect in this song. However, during the chorus, Weiland belts, "Time to take her home, her dizzy head is conscience laden. Time to take a ride, it leaves today, no conversation." For a rock song, it's pretty "moving" (though not to the point of tears). Let's just say that "Big Empty" gets the point across and does the job of being an impressive track on a good album.

The next three tracks are not bad tracks, but they are not my favorite. "Unglued" is probably my least favorite track on Purple. It's not as musically interesting as some of the others, but it gets credit for being completely different in rhythm, articulation, and melody. The melody is simple and while familiar, it's not terribly interesting. It's their shortest song on the album lasting barely over 2 1/2 minutes. "Army Ants" has the most interesting beginning out of all the other tracks, however, when Weiland begins to sing on the first verse, he loses my attention with the boring vocal melody. Fortunately for STP, Weiland and the music bring my attention right back during the chorus which is vocally and instrumentally more interesting. Then, almost as suddenly as I was enjoying the song, it's right back to the verse where my attention is once again lost. Then, the good chorus...see the problem? While not a bad track, it's just a little inconsistent at keeping your attention the entire time. The key sections of this track are the intro, the chorus, and the bridge. If the verses didn't exist, it'd be a great song. The track "Kitchenware and Candybars" is good, but not fabulous. This time, the musical genius is not in the instrumentaion, but rather in the vocals, which far outshine the mediocre music. His vocals and the background vocals are so great, you almost wish this has been done either as an accoustic or an a cappella song. At nearly 4 1/2 minutes, the listener will most likely get tired of listening to it. Also, if you let this song continue to play, you'll get the full dose of the "12 gracious melodies" with the last track titled, "My Second Album". It's hilarious! I have no idea who sings/plays it. It sure as heck doesn't sound like Weiland, but more like a cheesie Tony Bennett at a slowed down speed. It is super hard to describe, but it's funny, and definitely not STP. "My Second Album" is a tribute to, you guessed it, the second album. With lyrics like, "This album cover looks similar like Johnny Mathis", this song will have you thinking (in internet lingo) WTF? It is truly hilarious.

Purple is a good album with lots of great tracks on it and a few okay ones. If you have never listened to it or feel as though you need to be reintroduced to it, I would strongly recommend giving it a listen. It'll be enjoyable 50% of the time, every time.

Key Tracks:
1. Vasoline
2. Interstate Love Song
3. Pretty Penny
4. Silvergun Superman
5. Big Empty
7 out of 10 stars


Jason said...

I really don't like that Pretty Penny song at all. I don't know why.

Erin said...

Yeah, I really didn't either, but give it another listen. Listen carefully...who knows, it may grow on you.