It’s not necessarily Weiland that made STP so special.
Provided they continue to make music, there will come a day when we will speak about Stone Temple Pilots without mentioning Scott Weiland. That time has not yet come, in part because nostalgia for the band’s earliest work fuels much of the fandom for their records today. Much of the praise for new lead singer Jeff Gutt comes not from his considerable talent but from his similarity to Weiland. By their own admission, when the band endeavored to replace Weiland on a more permanent basis, they stated explicitly that they wanted to find someone who could “do the original songs justice” as well as to help to forge “a new path into the future.” But with Chester Bennington having left the band and Weiland having left the earth, Stone Temple Pilots was left with the burden of being a notable band with a considerable legacy whose finest hour was behind them. With the release of their latest and second self-titled LP, it seems it still is.
It’s not necessarily Scott Weiland that made them so special. While fans, critics and bandmates alike respected him as a vocalist, he has always been dogged as an Eddie Vedder clone. Weiland sounded like a rock singer should, but he wasn’t unique. Like Vedder, he was a traditional rock vocalist with the talent to help propel his band up the charts.
X-Factor runner-up and fellow generic rock vocalist Gutt brings that same skill to the table, and one has to give him credit for rising to the challenge of trying to fill the shoes of an archetypal rock star in both sound and self-destructive behavior. In fairness, the band was not ready to move on. Gutt did not come in to bring something new as much as to pay homage to Weiland’s memory, and he succeeds so well that you could be forgiven for thinking this new album was an early Stone Temple Pilots record that’s only recently surfaced.
“Meadow,” the album’s first single, is a competent straight-ahead rock track that, like much of STP settles into a kind of rock mediocrity. It’s hard to imagine any of these songs reaching the mainstream with the power of other modern acts like A Perfect Circle or even the new Alice in Chains. They’re not bad songs; “I Thought She’d Be Mine” is a wonderful little pop-rock track that would sit nicely on the charts. But despite passion and skilled playing, all the band’s good ideas merely add up to a bland rock ‘n’ roll soup that’s just enough to make someone take notice on a department store sound-system and wonder, “Hey, is Scott Weiland still alive?”
The album’s strongest track is the slightly harder edged “Roll Me Under,” which effectively recreates the dynamics of the band at their peak, with easy transitions between ‘90s alternative guitar buzz, air-guitar inducing solos and 80s hard rock melodies. Still, the 2018 Stone Temple Pilots may conjure enough memories of former glory days to be remembered fondly for a moment, but it will be too easily forgotten.