Photo Credit: Michelle Shiers
It’s been a long, bumpy and inconsistent flight for Stone Temple Pilots. Making their debut in the early Nineties, the San Diego band at first sounded so much like Pearl Jam that some were tagging them Clone Temple (or Stone Goddard) Pilots. Still, there proved to be enough audience support to go around, as Stone Temple Pilots’ first album Core would eventually sell eight million copies. Stone Temple Pilots gradually developed a sound that was more their own, even as original frontman Scott Weiland’s substance abuse and personal problems spiraled out of control and ultimately led to a split. The remaining members borrowed lead singer Chester Bennington from Linkin Park but that promising collaboration was short-lived (both bands would lose Bennington to suicide in 2017). After an extensive search to fill the void (again), Stone Temple Pilots finally enlisted vocalist Jeff Gutt, a former participant on The X-Factor.
A respected (enough) rock band recruiting a frontman from a TV talent competition would once have been considered at best highly suspect but now is pretty much par-for-the-course. However, the same can’t be said about Perdida, Stone Temple Pilots’ latest release (and second with Gutt). Which for better or for worse is certainly not what most people would have expected: an album comprised entirely of ballads or mid-tempo songs, nary a rocker or even an uptempo track anywhere to be found. It’s almost as though Stone Temple Pilots is trying to craft their own version of Love’s Forever Changes. While this album is certainly nowhere close to that level, once the culture shock subsides Perdida is in fact surprisingly enjoyable.
“Fair Thee Well” opens the album as sort of a Beatles/country hybrid, and the general vibe of modern, radio-friendly country retains a presence throughout much of the album, as titles like “You Found Yourself While Losing Your Heart” would probably spell out clearly. “Years” and the ironically-titled “I Didn’t Know the Time” are both closer to mellow Seventies AM radio tracks, possibly with hint of pre-Stevie Nicks Fleetwood Mac or Eighties British pop bands like Level 42. Although, a couple of songs do get a bit more ambitious with some international flavor, between the Spanish guitar featured on the title track, or the French accordion and gypsy violin solo both included on “Miles Away” (not the Winger song, obviously).
The last track “Sunburst” is seemingly intended as a grandiose classic rock album-closer, but instead becomes the final element that makes Perdida something of a difficult start-to-finish listen. While the general idea was clearly to make a stripped-down work, a few tracks end up coming off more like unfinished demos instead. Still, by this point, it’s difficult not to admire Stone Temple Pilots for the self-actualizing move which this album represents, since it’s a safe bet that if they had tried to bring a collection of exclusively “quiet” songs to the record company during the major label/Weiland era, they would’ve immediately been shown the door (or possibly the window).
The instrumental track “I Once Sat at Your Table”, being less than two minutes long might seem like filler. However, we can perhaps read meaning into the title: Does the “your” possibly refer to the general public, with Stone Temple Pilots indicating that they miss being a hugely popular band? Perdida will bring some people, at least, back to that table, even though the musical dinner menu has changed drastically.