Late last year, 90s rock suddenly found itself relevant once again thanks to an astonishing comeback album by grunge stalwarts Alice in Chains. Of course, this wasn't a success of a the genre so much as a triumph for the band - subsequent 90s returns have not even come close to Black Gives Way to Blue in stature. The most memorable thing about Hole's recent return to recording music was a twitter tiff with Billy Corgan over whether or not she stole (more) music he had written. Creed? Eh... let's not get into that. Which brings us to Stone Temple Pilots, an unquestionably large part of 90s rock. Putting out their first album of new material in nine years, the new self titled release isn't as bad as the two records I've just mentioned, but sadly it doesn't come anywhere near Alice in Chains' last album either.
What it really comes down to here is a matter of inspiration - STP had absolutely none to make this record. This is largely what made Black Gives Way to Blue so great; it was a towering reminder of what a great band they've always been, but more importantly it paid tribute to their deceased original vocalist. It's almost as if Scott Weiland took note of this and thought, "Well that's pretty cool. But I think I'd rather just swing my hips and sing about the drugs I used to take, used to take." This is not the kind of album you want to hear from a band who has been silent for a near decade; it's nothing more than bland pop entertainment. There's nothing to walk away from this with other than maybe a passing thought of how fun one of the singles sounded. Up to this point, none of STP's records sounded quite like each other, yet still quintessentially theirs, an admirable feat for any band. Here, it sounds like a watered down version of their last album, 2001's Shangri-La Dee Da, except with maybe a bit more 60s influence. Which gets a bit too apparent at times - Huckleberry Crumble's bluesy groove is dangerously close to that of Aerosmith's Same Old Song and Dance, the melody on Dare If You Dare is clearly lifted from All the Young Dudes, and so on.
Even the songwriting feels weaker than usual; though there are parts where Weiland and the Deleo brothers are spot on (the admittedly infectious single Between the Lines, Take a Load Off, and Hazy Days are all quite strong), for every great song there are a few bland, forgettable ones. Cinnamon gets too poppy for its own good with its almost boy band sounding verses ("Hear me can ya hear me, hear me can ya hear me" wears out its welcome pretty damn fast), As Fast as I Can comes across as a half-hearted retread of No. 4's Sex & Violence and MC5, and the most memorable thing about Bagman is mishearing the chorus as a reference to a certain DC superhero. Peacoat stands out in the second half, boasting melodies in the chorus that best nearly anything else on the album, and Maver serves as a fairly good closer, but in addition to the previously mentioned strong tracks, this doesn't even account for half of this record, with the remaining seven songs being about as imaginative as their parent album's title.
It would be unfair to call this a bad album, and it would be especially unfair to suggest that it hits the depths that Hole or Creed recently have, but the fact that it isn't bad just isn't good enough. Given the long wait for this record, and the knowledge that they are capable of far better, Stone Temple Pilots feels like little more than another typical rock band reunion album. There's no passion, no inspiration, and they seem to be simply going through the motions. It's worth hearing, but it's easily the worst thing they've released.