Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"They Sell Their Words, but It's All a Lie" (From the Archives)

As we leave "Army Ants" behind on Purple, it's almost a shock to enter the dark world of "Kitchenware & Candybars." Here we find backstabbing, the distorted crunch of multiple guitars competing with each other to bring their vision of misery to us, and a certain (intentional) loss of control in the vocal department. But we also find the frustration present in every other song on the album.
In fact, the pain is so tangible in Scott Weiland's voice during this song that it literally hurts to listen. Yet one can't shy away from it because it is beautiful, even in its misery. According to Below Empty, Details once wrote of this song, it is "a huge, ecstatically bitter song about betrayal," and that assessment is as on-the-nose as they come. It's huge in the sense that there are sweeping guitar chords, a deeply affecting bassline, and even a (lovely) string arrangement. It's ecstatic in the sense that every member of the band throws himself into the task at hand. And it's bitter in the sense that Weiland can barely contain himself as he spits out lines like "Sell me down the river" and "What we wanted is what we wanted."

The back cover of Purple, featuring a line from the bonus track, "My Second Album."

There are sonic echoes of this song on "Adhesive," one of the more drug-addled songs on Tiny Music (which, for the record, is really saying something). And so, as the final track on Purple, it points solidly into STP's future while staying true to the work they did earlier on the album and, indeed, things they accomplished on Core. So for me, that's the key to the genius of "Kitchenware & Candybars."

Fun fact: If you let "Kitchenware & Candybars" run past its apparent ending, you'll come to "My Second Album," a kitschy tune provided by Johnny Mathis enthusiast and lounge act Richard Peterson. I guarantee it'll put a smile on your face.

Thanks for tuning in these past two and a half weeks. I hope you've found these posts about Stone Temple Pilots informative and entertaining!

Image via FeelNumb.


PS All of the images from these posts are from the Purple era (1994). Most of them were found at Below Empty, which is by far the best STP fan site out there. Please, please, please visit them if you're looking for any information about STP; chances are, they can tell you what you want to know!

Friday, May 24, 2013

"Why Do We All Have to Look This Way?" (From the Archives)

Remember earlier in this series when I mentioned frustration as a watchword for Purple? "Army Ants" is yet another song that proves the point. Here we find the guys letting it all hang out, as it were, and particularly Scott Weiland, who works through his disappointment by asking two main questions: "Why do we all have to look this way?" and "Why do we all have to think this way?" Though he never comes to any conclusions, he certainly points out the things that anger him the most:
You don't look but you kick me. / You can't feel but you hit me. / You can't deal with the way I pray [...]. / I got a heart, I got blood, feel pain.
And there are few things more basic to humanity than a desire to be understood and appreciated, so Weiland's words are understandable, to say the least.

Live onstage at the 1994 VMAs.

Though "Army Ants" initially reads like a holdover from STP's "grunge days" (if they can really be called that)--straight ahead, slightly Nirvana-tinged--it transcends those limitations thanks largely to Eric Kretz's skilled and nuanced drumming, as well as the melodic opening. For many years, this was my least favorite track on the album, but now I find things to love about it. For example, the song opens with a trippy guitar part and transitions quickly into a hard rocking rhythm, echoing the structure of "Interstate Love Song" before it. If I had to compare "Army Ants" directly to another Stone Temple Pilots song, though, I'd actually choose two: "Crackerman" from Core, and "Tumble in the Rough" from Tiny Music. There's an insistent quality about each of those songs, and in fact, the subject matter is similar in each. If nothing else, at least we can say that STP have managed to stay true to their musical and lyrical selves throughout their career.

Fun fact: According to band members, the music for this song was originally formulated by Dean DeLeo when he was in his mid-teens, and when the opportunity arose to use it years later, he took it.

Join us tomorrow for the last installment in this series, which will explore "Kitchenware & Candybars"!

Image via Below Empty.


Monday, May 20, 2013

"Yeah, I Got This Thing That's Comin' Over Me" (From the Archives)

Picture it: you're in your 20s, you're fed up with the way you feel, and you just want to get some of that negative energy out of your system. What kind of song would you write? Would it be something dark, or would it be loud, in-your-face rock and roll? If you lean more toward the second option, "'Unglued'" is probably the song for you.

The shortest song on Purple by a 20-second margin ("Vasoline" is the only other song that clocks in under three minutes), "'Unglued'" begins with an off-kilter guitar and some pounding drums. It's not an overly complicated song, but this is not really a time for layered proficiency. This is a time for letting it all go.

Just, you know, shootin' pool with Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards down at the rock star clubhouse.

Anyone who has ever seen STP live (or seen footage of one of their shows) knows that Scott Weiland is inordinately fond of spinning and undulating across the stage during songs, and whenever I hear "'Unglued,'" I think of his serpentine ways. And maybe that's what he means when he sings, "I got this thing that's comin' over me"--an irresistible urge to shake what his mama gave him. Wouldn't you like to join in?

Fun fact: Robert DeLeo once expressed reservations about how Nirvana-like "'Unglued'" sounds. But--at least in the context of Purple, and to this listener's ears--it's pure Stone Temple Pilots.

Tomorrow we'll explore "Army Ants"!

Image via Below Empty.


Friday, May 17, 2013

"Her Dizzy Head Is Conscience-Laden" (From the Archives)

Tell me the truth: is there any song better suited to a long drive on a dark night of the soul than "Big Empty"? From the opening notes--both bass and guitar--to the heart-rending way Scott Weiland delivers the classic line, "Too much trippin' and my soul's worn thin," "Big Empty" is the epitome of lonely roads-angst. Of particular note is the repeated bridge line "Conversations kill," which is so true on so many levels, particularly when you consider that, at the time, Weiland was in the throes of his first experience with addiction and trying desperately to hide it from everyone around him: discussing it would have injured him, indeed.

Scott Weiland, the man behind the voice.

One of the best things about this song, aside from the lyrics, is the way the four members of the band work so hard to give each other space. Dean DeLeo's guitar never outshines Robert DeLeo's bass, and Eric Kretz's drum work rolls along in the background, definitely there but sharing the song. Meanwhile, up front, Weiland's vocals are restrained, though he perhaps retains too much of the grunge influence on the chorus. All in all, this song just WORKS, and I have a feeling it will be a staple on radio stations for years to come.

Fun fact: although it was woefully misused, "Big Empty" was written for The Crow, that legendary 1994 film starring Brandon Lee, and was the first of STP's work employed in such a manner.

On Monday, we'll explore the energy-filled three and a half minutes that make up "'Unglued'"!

Image via Below Empty.


Monday, May 13, 2013

"Couldn't Hide; Write a Wave, Ride a Lie" (From the Archives)

Few songs in the history of Stone Temple Pilots resonate with me as much as "Silvergun Superman." I can't put my finger on the basic thing that attracts me to the song, though I suspect it may be the sheer volume of it all--it's the perfect song to turn up in the car when you need to get your anger out. Plus, it has a totally killer guitar solo that I adore.

The brothers DeLeo: Robert on the left, Dean on the right.

I once heard Dean DeLeo's guitar work described as muscular, and in fact, I think "Silvergun Superman" is one of the best cases for EVERYONE'S work to be considered muscular. There is so much angst in this song, but that negative energy is channeled into something beautifully layered and super-skilled. Many of STP's influences are on display here, from arena rock to the Beatles. And the controlled chaos toward the end of the track gives me something to aspire to as a writer.

Fun fact: in a huge departure from his usually duties in the band, Dean DeLeo played the drum solo at the end of this song!

Join us tomorrow for an analysis of "Big Empty."
Image via Below Empty.


Friday, May 10, 2013

"And the Price She Paid" (From the Archives)

Some critic once described "Sour Girl," from STP's album No. 4, as Beatles-esque. But if ever there was a time when Stone Temple Pilots truly paid homage to the Beatles, it was here in "Pretty Penny." When I listen to it, I think of "Love You To," "Ticket to Ride," "Norwegian Wood," and maybe even "Eleanor Rigby." That's the first thing "Pretty Penny" has going for it. But there's something better and deeper going on here, as well.

If you listen to songs for their musical structure rather than their sound alone, you'll notice something pretty interesting here: Dean DeLeo not only infused clear Beatles-type flourishes, but he also gave the song a structure that closely follows that of "Ticket to Ride." (Indeed, the multi-bridge structure echoes two other tracks from the '60s--"You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin'" and "Good Vibrations.") However, the most surprising thing about "Pretty Penny," ultimately, is the fact that it was recorded on an eight-track device (according to multiple interviews given by band members), and yet there is as much depth to this song as any other on the album.

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

Another aspect of the song worth noting is its lyrics, which seem to have been influenced by John Steinbeck's 1947 novella The Pearl. Of course, this is based on my vague memory of that work--which I read about, oh, a decade ago and *cough* hated. The point, though, is that Weiland is a multi-faceted guy, the kind who doesn't mind dropping a literary reference from time to time. And that, ladies and gents, is a sure way to this girl's heart.

Fun fact: on STP's greatest hits DVD (featured as part of the Thank You two-disc package), there is a "bootleg" video of the band recording a take of "Pretty Penny." At the very end, the camera zooms in on Robert DeLeo's face, and you can tell he knows that they've stumbled upon something really special. He was totally right.

Tomorrow we'll explore the anger-driven hard rock of "Silvergun Superman"!

Image via Below Empty.


Monday, May 6, 2013

"You Know I'd Beg for You" (From the Archives)

I have a confession to make: I am not always as gung ho about STP's output as I claim to be.

As a matter of fact, there are three songs in their repertoire that I rarely allow myself to hear. One is "Huckleberry Crumble" from Stone Temple Pilots (I hate the title and think Scott Weiland sounds ridiculous), "Days of the Week" from Shangri-La Dee Da (which is so NOT-STP-esque that I can't even handle it), and "Still Remains," the track that follows "Interstate Love Song" on Purple.

The band. Left to right: Dean DeLeo, Scott Weiland, Robert DeLeo, and Eric Kretz.

Weiland's vocals are uneven, and ultimately, it's like any other overwrought love song out there. However, I can't fault STP for this tune. After all, they were bound to record an ode to their loved ones eventually.

The good news is that there is a certain melodic sensibility that saves "Still Remains" from itself--take away the lyrics, and it's not so bad. It's also in an important place on the album: if it wasn't a buffer in between "Interstate Love Song" and "Pretty Penny," we might not be able to appreciate those songs as much, because they wouldn't have proper bookends.

Fun fact: there are no fun facts about this song.

Come back tomorrow and join me as I take a look at "Pretty Penny"!

Image via Below Empty.


Friday, May 3, 2013

"All of These Things You Said to Me" (From the Archives)

The other day, while doing research for this series, I re-watched the music video for "Interstate Love Song," and one of the notes I made read thus: "I don't know who this asshat with the nose is, but apparently he's been kicked out of his home?" (For those of you who have never seen it, here's the context.)

The bad news is that I still don't understand why the dude with the nose was in the video. The good news is that it doesn't really matter, because, as it turns out, "Interstate Love Song" transcends the limitations of its music video, and how. To me, this is the crux of STP's career: it's the song during which the listener begins to realize that these guys really know their shit.

A still from the video for "Interstate Love Song," featuring Scott Weiland with Robert DeLeo in the background.

Let's ignore the lyrics for a minute (for crying out loud, Scott, what is a hand in rusted shame?) and skip straight to the music. EVERYTHING about this song is right--it has hooks galore, stellar work on every instrument, crisp sounds, and an immediately recognizable bluesy opening that transitions smoothly into a straight-ahead embodiment of everything that was good about alternative rock music of the 1990s.

Beyond that, the chorus is one of the most sing-along-able out there, and everyone can relate to the words coming out of Weiland's mouth: "Only yesterday you lied." Whether it's a friend, lover, or relative behind the prevarication, we have all been there, and so one of the many reasons the song resonates so well is because it provides a type of therapy for us. After all, isn't catharsis one of the main reasons we interact with art?

On the technical side of things, although Weiland would go on to experiment with other interesting vocal styles, both for STP's third album, Tiny Music...Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop and his first solo album, 12 Bar Blues, he wouldn't sound as good as he did on "Interstate Love Song" until 1999's aptly-titled No. 4 came along. And as for the rest of the band, they followed a similar path by exploring different musical styles, but they were at their best here until "Seven Caged Tigers" came along on Tiny Music. (In my opinion, the only other song on Purple that rivals "Interstate Love Song" for tightly-wrapped proficiency is "Pretty Penny.")

Fun fact: remember that time Chuck Klosterman said STP was unoriginal? He also wrote once that,
On occasion, rock pundits will begrudgingly admit that "Interstate Love Song" was among the better rock songs of the 1990s. These pundits are wrong. "Interstate Love Song" was the best song of the 1990s. It's better than "Smells like Teen Spirit," "You Oughta Know," and even "Ice Ice Baby."
 Well. Isn't that an interesting turn of events?

Come back tomorrow to read all about the perks and pitfalls of writing songs about your wife (or maybe your girlfriend?), as embodied by "Still Remains."

Image via Below Empty.


PS As for that article cited above, I cannot find a link to it on the Internet. What I can tell you, however, is that it's called "Temple of the Dog" and was an entry in Klosterman's column Rant and Roll Over in Spin (the very same publication in which he denounced STP as unoriginal, no less). It appeared years ago, when I ripped it out of the magazine and stuffed it into a notebook for future reference. Based on the evidence (Klosterman cites Weiland's drug arrest of 17 May 2003), I'd guess it ran sometime that summer.