Feb 14 2022

Album Review: Stone Temple Pilots – Tiny Music… Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop (#MWE)

It’s kind of funny in retrospect that critics didn’t really like Stone Temple Pilots. Originally labeled as a banal grunge afterthought, the band actually made some of the more interesting music to come out of the mainstream in the final decade of the 20th century. Nothing is more evident of this than their third album Tiny Music, which saw STP grow weary of the grunge sound (which was admittedly becoming pretty stale by 1996) and dive deeper into their love of punk. But we also hear the group dabble in jangle pop from the 60s and even hints of bossa nova.

From the jump, the rhythms are faster, the guitars sound brighter, and Scott Weiland’s vocals sound more animated. None of the plod from their previous hits like “Interstate Love Song” and “Vaseline” can be found. Instead, we are treated to a downright shimmy-ready guitar line on “Big Bang Baby” and driving rhythms on “Tumble In the Rough.” Later on, Weiland gets downright contemplative on the album highlight, the gorgeous “Lady Picture Show.”

The band are eager to turn the volume down on the guitars ever so slightly and wear their influences on their sleeves – “And So I Know” is a muted, jazzy midpoint, likely a suggestion from bassist Robert DeLeo, the most highbrow of the group. And while Weiland gets his chance to shine on glam-heavy goodness like “Pop’s Love Suicide,” more often we hear a refreshing update on the STP sound influenced by 60s jangle and psychedelia, as on single “Trippin’ On a Hole In a Paper Heart.” And who could forget the quirky-verse-into-overpowering-chorus thrill ride that is “Art School Girl”?

Grunge was a sound that Stone Temple Pilots perfected to a radio-ready sheen, but it was clear the band were too good to wallow in the sound. With Tiny Music, we see a band transformed and inspired by sounds of the past, and everything clicked in the right place, perhaps for the last time.

Score: 8/10