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Stone Temple Pilots (Deluxe Edition 2010)

Well, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Stone Temple Pilots have been flattering all kinds of people since their debut album way back in 1992. STP's self-titled sixth album will do nothing to exonerate them of their copycat reputation. "Between the Lines," the opening cut, is their most blatant Nirvana impersonation to date. This may seem unforgivable to some, but I have always viewed the band's sound-morphing as an homage to the artists who influenced them. To suggest that STP are only rip-off artists looking for a fast buck is ludicrous, given the band's longevity, their enduring popularity, and their undeniable creative powers.

The first new STP release in nine long years reaffirms their knack for flawless songwriting, arranging, and musicianship. The tone of the new album is upbeat, and the general outlook of the band seems healthy and positive. Singer Scott Weiland's role as the vocal chameleon has never been more apparent and unapologetic -- he sounds like about ten different singers on this CD. He remains a competent lyricist, offering stream-of-consciousness disclosures from the rock therapy couch that never distract us too much from the music.

The CD opens with four solid rockers, followed by some of the band's trademark adventures in pop/rock experimentation. In "Huckleberry Crumble" and "Between the Lines" the listener will hear similarities to Aerosmith that weren't apparent on previous albums. "Dare If You Dare," is a classy Beatles tribute, and "Cinnamon" sports a verse that sounds like New Order, of all things. The mind-bending "Peacoat" is a good example of the band's diverse influences being melted together to create something totally original. "Samba Nova," the bonus tune, is a treat reminiscent of the Pilots' 1996 psychedelic lounge classic, "And So I Know," which seemed so shocking in the context of 1990s grunge metal. Even then STP was defying the lazy conventions that were taking over popular music.

My one criticism of this album would be that they rely a little too heavily on vocal multi-tracking at times, which has a way of taking the edge off a rock band's sound and making the singer sound more like a choir. This technique is excellent for making choruses stand out, but when you use it for the entire song you're getting into dangerous territory. Luckily it's not utilized to the extent that caused Alice in Chains' final Staley-era disc to sound like gothic elevator music.

The bottom line is that Stone Temple Pilots get it. They know what great music sounds like and how to make it. Their influences are like a who's who of rock history: Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Sex Pistols, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Nirvana, The Doors, Duran Duran, Mel Tormé, and the list goes on. They never seem to stop experimenting and refining their sound, and as a result each new album sounds like a progression from the previous one. Get this CD. You won't regret it.

Reviewed by Aaron Shore 9/1/10

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