Review Summary: Opening old wounds.
Imagine for a second, opening a tin of sausage and beans and finding only beans inside; listening to Nirvana without Kurt Cobain; or watching Toy Story without Woody and Buzz in it. I’ve drawn from a stark contrast of fields for my metaphor, but all have the same result: the core ingredient is missing. The differences for these areas is crucial though: in a film you can potentially write a clever tale for Toy Story that could
work without its two charismatic protagonists; if you don’t have sausage in your tin you can take it back and get a replacement; but for a band, if something tragic or unfortunate happens to its most appealing selling point there’s little you can do about it. It’s definitely a morally grey area for me – especially when that band’s singer dies. I mean, it was bad enough when Weiland left STP again in 2013 and Chester Bennington took over as their official singer – a combination I feel didn’t work – but when that singer dies, there’s a legacy there which I feel should remain unspoiled and left alone. STP are an even rarer case though and have a somewhat ominous cloud looming over their name now that both of their singers are 6 feet underground, but I digress. Even with this spooky factor out of the scenario, when you’re out of pocket with your core ingredient there’s a repeating trend that seems to occur and is both completely bewildering and pointless to me: they hire a new singer that sounds exactly like their old one.
Like Alice in Chains, I can’t for the life of me understand why a band would pick an imitation of their former singer; a deceased one no less. It’s both creepy and cynically lazy. The dominating thought is that they are sitting on a recognisable name, so a change is out of the question, but for that name fans want the same familiarity it originally offered. However, going down this road leaves a nasty taste in my mouth, hearing X-Factor's Jeff Gutt attempt to convey the unattainable sleaze Weiland possessed only leaves me thinking Stone Temple Pilots
is a calculated and artificial cash-grab. What’s worse is STP’s sound here probably wouldn’t have been saved even if Scott was alive to sing on it. This retro offering is a dull collection of grunge and alt-rock tunes that moves with a lethargic slump, “Just a Little Lie” has a functionally effective groove, partnered with shimmering guitar effects that have a firm hold on the song, but god, has it been done a million times before – and a lot better. Everything here works adequately, there’s nothing offensive to report, but the problem is it all feels soulless and by-the-numbers, only now with the added hinderance of a guy trying to sound like someone else; and that to me makes everything feel fake and dirty. I’ve nothing against Jeff’s singing, he’s a very able frontman, and occasionally you’ll hear a decent take – namely the Floydian tinged “The Art of Letting Go” that hears some really soothing falsettos and gentle melodies – but his raspy croons on a song like “Roll Me Over” or his performance on “Finest Hour” had me confused I was hearing a Velvet Revolver album. It’s so distracting at times and ultimately left me judging songs by how Jeff tried to sound like Weiland than hearing the pieces on their own merits.
If you are an avid fan of the band, like Alice in Chains, you’ll probably find something redeemable here. It certainly tries to sound like a Stone Temple Pilots album, but I can’t help looking past the veil and seeing a desperate attempt to carry the name on, when the best thing to do would be moving onto other creative ventures. It’s not terrible, just deliberate, and with this approach comes the loss of their edge and energy – Weiland or not, this album could never be saved, but when he isn’t here to tell the tale, it just makes everything feel that much worse.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A