Monday, April 29, 2013

"Pins in Me, in Me; You Kill Me" (From the Archives)

Theoretically, at the time of its release, "Lounge Fly" was not "STP-esque"--up until then, including on the first two tracks of Purple, the band was lumped into the grunge category with Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Nirvana, and their mortal enemies Pearl Jam. In practice, though, "Lounge Fly" is, in fact, the song that disproves that theory. Not only does it depart from the grunge sound, but it also sets the stage for experimentation later on the album AND acts a harbinger of things to come later (for example, the psychedelic stylings of Tiny Music and some monstrously loud work on No. 4).

One of the things that most strikes me about "Lounge Fly" every time I hear it is the drumming. Allegedly, Eric Kretz ended up in the band after Robert DeLeo and Scott Weiland saw him playing in another band and were amazed at how loud he was. When I saw STP in concert in 2008, I knew exactly what they meant--dude is thunderous, to say the least. And nowhere is his might as obvious on Purple as it is here: he pounds out every beat with purpose and precision, and the end result is a primal mix that makes you want to turn it up to eleven.

Eric Kretz, whose drumming so dominates this song.

As for the lyrics, Weiland gives a quick, dirty delivery in the verses. There are a few songs that encapsulate certain emotions for me. For example, "Wichita Lineman" evokes the exquisite pain of a long-distance relationship. "Time of the Season" is the perfect example of what happens when you put lust before everything else. And "Lounge Fly" is a quintessential self-doubt tune, because Weiland puts it all out there early on when he sings, "I think I'm free, but the dogs, they won't release me." The chorus is also affecting, and the way Weiland tells us that "I can't give what I take away" drives home the point of the song: this is a young man stuck in a whirlwind of emotion. (Remember what I said about frustration being the watchword for Purple?)

Fun fact: pretty much everyone who grew up in the '90s will recognize at least part of this song--the opening loop was used as the MTV News Break theme song for years.

Come back on Monday to read about "Interstate Love Song," one of STP's most enduring hits!

Image via Below Empty.


Friday, April 26, 2013

"Think I'd Be Safer All Alone" (From the Archives)

The egregious spelling error in the title notwithstanding, "Vasoline" is a pretty boss song, and the perfect choice for following up "Meatplow." Not only is the tone of the song different--more meditatively baffled by life than obviously angry--but the actual musicianship is different. Dean and Robert DeLeo's guitar work here provides a sense of things to come in STP's future as well as looking back on an important influence: punk rock, but it never really crosses into grunge territory, and thank God. Eric Kretz percusses like a madman, which gives us a sense of his true abilities (something upon which he'll build later on the album). And then there's Scott Weiland.

A still from the video for "Vasoline." Scott Weiland is on the lawn; other band members are on the columns.

On the vocal front, things get interesting. We learn here that Weiland has finally settled into a style that makes sense for him, rather than trying to shoehorn his voice into the grunge norm (which is part of what led to the band garnering comparisons to Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam in the first place--neither of which is particularly accurate, if you take into account their entire body of work). The clearer approach he takes here is one that comes up time and again throughout the course of Purple, particularly on "Interstate Love Song," "Pretty Penny," and "Big Empty": just do what comes naturally and don't get too overwrought.

All in all, "Vasoline" provides a refreshing glimpse into the possibilities of Stone Temple Pilots as a viable and vital musical entity. And from here on out, things start looking mighty bright for the gentlemen who started out as Mighty Joe Young.

Fun fact: the music video for this song comes in three different versions--X, Y, and Z--which each contain the same basic images but rearranges them. The more motivated among you may have fun searching for and comparing the videos to each other on YouTube.

Come back tomorrow to read about "Lounge Fly," the song that indicated a sea change in STP's output.

Image via


Monday, April 22, 2013

"Fine Place for a Day Full of Breakdowns" (From the Archives)

Purple opens with “Meatplow,” which itself begins with four heavy, intimidating notes belted out by the DeLeo brothers. Those four notes could be a throwback to Beethoven’s fifth symphony and that infamous “fate knocking on your door” opening. They could be a musical interpretation of angry screaming, a response to the critical mistreatment of the band up to that point. Or they could simply be Robert and Dean’s way of showing off. Whichever explanation you prefer, the sound will grab you by the throat and pull you into STP’s world.

Stone Temple Pilots. Left to right: Robert DeLeo, Scott Weiland, Dean DeLeo, and Eric Kretz.

It's not just about the music, though. The lyrical content is also worth addressing. It's a well-known fact that Scott Weiland is one emotional dude. Each of STP's albums has a very clear theme, apparently based on how Weiland feels during the songwriting process. If the thread carrying through Core is apathy, the thread through Tiny Music drugs, the thread through No. 4 divorce, the thread through Shangri-la Dee Da recovery, and the thread through STP putting the pieces back together, then the thread through Purple is frustration. 

So Purple starts with a declaration of that frustration, when Weiland sings in "Meatplow,"

Fine place for a day full of breakdowns. / Takes more than a meltdown to show us how. / Throw a tack on the road, / Stop the meatplow; / Got a bullet but it ain't mine.
This sets the stage for an album-long manifesto against backstabbing, sniping, criticism, and--in some ways--self-doubt. Yet, as you'll see later, Weiland doesn't necessarily follow his own advice. Still, it's worth keeping "Meatplow" in mind when we move forward on the album.

Fun Fact: I love Stone Temple Pilots, but they don't love my car. I once (accidentally) rear-ended a woman to the strains of "Sour Girl." And just days before my junior year of college began, I was pulled over by a county sheriff's deputy to--you guessed it--"Meatplow."

Tune in tomorrow for a review of "Vasoline"!

Image via


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Purple: An Introduction (From the Archives)

In late 2011, I wrote a twelve-post series for my first blog, What We Covet, called "In Defense of Stone Temple Pilots." Because April and May are incredibly busy for me, I'll be republishing them here for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

* * *

In Defense of Stone Temple Pilots
Or, Why Purple Is One of the Greatest Albums of All Time

Critics hate Stone Temple Pilots.

It's true. Chuck Klosterman once wrote of a band called the Bravery, "Like Stone Temple Pilots [...] before them, the Bravery serve as cultural shorthand: If someone wants to take a stand against inauthentic, unoriginal rock'n'roll, they can simply say, 'I hate the Bravery.'" Rolling Stone and Spin seem to agree, on an institutional level--neither Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" (published in 2003), that magazine's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" (published in 2011), nor Spin's "100 Greatest Albums 1985-Now" (published in 2005) include any of STP's work. And while I understand that such lists may be highly political, subjective, or slaves to the whims of those who compile such lists, there is a very big part of me that refuses to believe that a prolific, talented band such as STP hasn't produced any material worthy of charting in any of these scenarios.

I'm not saying that they're the best band ever; that's definitely the Beatles, no contest. But I feel confident in asserting that STP certainly is not the worst, either (I am looking in your direction, Blink-182). And I'm going to use their second studio album, Purple, to prove it to you.

Front cover artwork for Purple.

A few items of business before we launch into an in-depth review of the album:

1) I am not qualified to judge the actual musical quality of any of these songs. I only have my instincts to guide me, but I feel that they are good ones.

2) Personally, my favorite STP album is No. 4. I do, however, realize that Purple may just be a better album (either way, I stand behind all of their albums, even--dare I say it?--their most recent); this is why I'm campaigning for the inclusion of Purple on "Greatests" lists.

3) As much as it amuses me, "My Second Album" is not a legitimate part of Purple (it's not even a Stone Temple Pilots song), so I won't review it here.

4) Any lyrics cited in posts will be a combination of the printed lyrics in Purple's liner notes--which are sometimes either incomplete or slightly inaccurate--and what one actually hears on the album.

5) So we're all on the same page, you'll find a list of tracks/writing credits and band personnel below. Information here is based on the album's liner notes.

Tracks (Writing Credits)
1) "Meatplow" (D. DeLeo, R. DeLeo)
2) "Vasoline" (D. DeLeo, R. DeLeo, E. Kretz. S. Weiland)
3) "Lounge Fly" (R. DeLeo)
4) "Interstate Love Song" (R. DeLeo)
5) "Still Remains" (D. DeLeo, R. DeLeo)
6) "Pretty Penny" (D. DeLeo)
7) "Silvergun Superman" (D. DeLeo, R. DeLeo)
8) "Big Empty" (D. DeLeo)
9) "'Unglued'" (R. DeLeo, S. Weiland)
10) "Army Ants" (D. DeLeo)
11) "Kitchenware & Candybars" (R. DeLeo)

All lyrics by S. Weiland

Scott Weiland, vocals, guitar ("Silvergun Superman), and percussion ("Pretty Penny")
Dean DeLeo, electric and acoustic guitar, percussion ("Pretty Penny"), and drum solo ("Silvergun Superman")
Robert DeLeo, bass, guitar ("Vasoline," "Lounge Fly," "Pretty Penny," "Silvergun Superman," and "Kitchenware & Candybars"), and percussion ("Pretty Penny")
Eric Kretz, drums and percussion ("Vasoline," "Lounge Fly," "Pretty Penny," and "Big Empty")
Brendan O'Brien, producer, percussion ("Meatplow," "Interstate Love Song," "Silvergun Superman," "'Unglued,'" and "Kitchenware & Candybars"), guitar ("Kitchenware & Candybars"), and mellotron ("Army Ants")
Paul Leary, guitar (end solo on "Lounge Fly")

So if you're at all interested in hearing what I have to say about each of these songs, please come back tomorrow to read the first installment--an analysis of "Meatplow"--and ten more days after that for my thoughts on the other tracks.

Image via Fotolog.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Pssst. I have a secret for you. There's a place where you can borrow books FOR FREE.

It's called a library. Some of you may have heard of these things--primitive versions of the Internet. And while I, having completed my studies, no longer spend much time in libraries, I am a big fan of them. Not only can you borrow their books for your reading pleasure, but they can help you find new authors to love, information about your local area, or even your family history!

Libraries are important places, which is why I want to give them a plug today. Many offer children's programming, and all provide a quiet place for research and reading. Some even have gift shops where you can purchase items to support the library with your money, and a select few have extra perks; for example, my home library in Michigan has a gallery used for local artists and student shows, and the Greensboro Central Library has some tricked-out conference rooms. Moreover, librarians are staunch defenders of free access to information as well as fans of saving people from the tyranny of those who would ban books. (This part particularly excites me.)

When I was a kid, the library was my favorite place to be. Nowadays, I buy most of the books I read, but walking through stacks still excites me. I can only hope that a few of you feel the same thrill, or that you're willing to check it out. Just think of all the interesting--and free!--things you'll find there.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Motivational Speaking

Sometimes, writing is the worst thing. It's a drag. It hurts. It doesn't work out the way you want it to. So maybe you decide to give it up. Not forever; just until you're okay again.

I'm terrible about falling into this trap. If I don't feel like writing, I won't do it. There are those out there who insist that you must write every day, or you'll never accomplish anything. As you might have noticed, I don't buy into this idea. However, I begin to suspect that I should.

There are simple ways to motivate myself, I suppose. Set an alarm, tell myself that I should "just keep swimming" (to quote a wise blue fish),  have someone punch me in the face every day I don't write. Okay, that last one is a stretch, but you see the point, I'm sure.

It's possible that I am not the type of person who works well on a schedule. Left to my own devices, I'd sleep all morning and watch TV all afternoon. But discipline is important. Therefore, I'm going to start keeping track of how often I write. That way, I'll be accountable to myself, and that's an important thing.