Stone Temple Pilots – Core by Killian Laher
In the early nineties, you were as likely to discover new music through music videos as through radio, particularly in Ireland. You were never likely to hear the Stone Temple Pilots on Irish radio but the video for Plush was shown late one evening. The slow, catchy, heavy riffs of the song, combined well with singer Scott Weiland’s swaying, confident vocal. Although the accusations of copying Eddie Vedder’s vocal style largely stem from this song, at the time this was exactly what I wanted to hear. What I didn’t realise was I was all on my own here. Virtually nobody I knew, knew anything about them. And those that did were completely dismissive of them as grunge bandwagon jumpers who weren’t even from Seattle. But I couldn’t get Plush out of my head so purchased the album.
On first listen it sounded like a load of meat-head heavy rock. Opening track Dead and Bloated combined bawled, strange lyrics (“I AM smelling like a rose that somebody gave me on my birthday deathbed”) over slamming, swaggering riffs. Sex Type Thing was heavier again, and faster with a killer riff and a borderline threatening lyric: “here I come I come I come I come… I wanna get close to you, I wanna get next to you”. Turned out the song was a depiction of predatory males, not an endorsement. Weiland used to disparage the macho male when performing this live, camping it up. The whole album had a very heavy feel through riff-driven songs like Crackerman and the slower Where The River Goes. Weiland maintained a gruff, almost thuggish delivery across the album, exemplified by Piece of Pie, over tough-sounding guitar riffs.
There was more to the band than heavy. The slowburn of Creep showed a different side to them, as did their performance on MTV Unplugged around the same time. This showed how the band could be a lot more laidback, Weiland singing from a rocking chair. I know the band didn’t want to get pigeonholed by Plush, burying it as track nine, but it really is the standout song here. It’s a riff any rock band would be proud to have written. The lyrics are kind of meaningless, all this stuff about “and I feel it”…. and “when the dogs begin to smell her”. Despite the lyrics, Weiland’s deep vocal still makes the song sound great. It’s not cerebral, heady stuff, instead this one hits you in the gut.
The band never got much credit at the time. Criticised as rip-off grunge bandwagon jumpers, someone christened them Stone Temple Pearl Jam! However, they always had a way with great, melodic hooks. The band actually changed their sound considerably after this album, largely for the better. But the strongest tracks here have lost none of their power.