Review Summary: A bold debut that holds up well, even after 20 years.
Stone Temple Pilots were bound to notoriety from the get-go, it seems; what seemed to be a promising debut album turned out to be pummeled by critics and grunge fans alike. About 90% of the arguments against the band referred to them as being too similar to other acts such as Alice in Chains, and the fact that the very same album was released on the same day as AIC's landmark affair Dirt would only dig them a deeper grave. However, sales suggested quite the contrary.
Of course, I'm talking about the album Core, which provided a launchpad to success for Stone Temple Pilots. It eventually went on to sell over eight million copies with a lot of help from strong singles, including "Sex Type Thing," "Wicked Garden," and "Creep." However, how does all of this hold up today? Certainly better than it did back then, that's for sure.
While it might be tempting to call the band rip-offs like so many others did, it's really not giving the whole story. To the band's credit, Core outpaces many of its contemporaries from a composition-standpoint, a lot of this stemming from some real diversity. The fact that the album switches from a doomy opener, to a fast-paced "Dam That River"-style song, to a mid-paced number with chilling choruses, to an extremely haunting instrumental in just four tracks should really say something about the band's ambitious nature.
You'd think the songwriting quality would suffer with this in mind, but it doesn't. Songs like "Wicked Garden" will have you humming the chorus all day, and the more complex "Sin" twists and slithers around an E-diminished chord that serves as the discordant riff. "No Memory," the aforementioned instrumental, is the equivalent of losing your soul and being heartless for eternity; such imagery is hard to convey effectively, but the band manage to pull it off in only a minute and a half.
If highlights were to be chosen, "Wicked Garden," "Creep," "Sex Type Thing," and "Plush" would be them. "Wicked Garden" was already somewhat explained earlier, but "Creep" is a whole different story. The delicately-paced ballad keeps the listener on-edge with effective use of the acoustic guitar to create and build drama. Vocalist Scott Weiland tones down his vocals to give a performance equally emotional and downtrodden. "Sex Type Thing" and "Plush" are two of the most powerful songs to grace the record, the former being an anti-rape defense put to a grunge-metal tune, and the latter crawling at a much-slower pace and being generally more emotive without dragging out for too long.
The only big issue is that the songs have a tendency to run together after a while; this is especially evident in the latter part of the record. This causes some annoying repetition, especially when it comes to the slightly recycled-sounding riffs in the last few tracks. One song that unfortunately displays this really well is the last number, "Where the River Goes." It just drags at a snail's pace without particularly accomplishing much; there's not much purpose for the song all in all.
Either way, Core became a mega-hit and is more widely accepted today than it was back then. In hindsight, the album turned out to be very important, as it boosted grunge's sales even more than the genre was already experiencing. Not only that, but it deserves almost every inch of positive reception it gets today. This one is highly recommended.