Nowadays, there’s a new Stone Temple Pilots; one not featuring Scott Weiland on vocals, but Chester Bennington. However, back on March 26, 1996, Scott was still quite instrumental in the band. Yes folks, on this day in question, Stone Temple Pilots released, what I consider to be their finest album. That album? Tiny Music… Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop. Sure, you can read other publications telling you how this album was not commercially viable when compared with STP’s first two albums, but the proof is in the pudding. Tiny Music…is Stone Temple Pilots at their pop best. It still amazes me how positive and upbeat this album turned out when you take into consideration Scott Weiland’s state at the time (sort of like his state now. Swimming in a sea of drugs.). Alas, this blog isn’t about Scott Weiland’s (losing) drug battle, it’s about an album that was different from anything that was out at the time; an album that even today, in 2013, remains fresh, vibrant, and timeless.
Tiny Music…is the Stone Temple Pilots at their pop best… an album that even today, in 2013, remains fresh, vibrant, and timeless.
I remember where I was when I heard the album for the first time. It was June of 1996 and, as per my usual, I was in Massachusetts visiting my cousins. Crammed in a car with my cousins Kali, Tina, Maria, and Nick, Kali pops Tiny Music… into the car’s cassette deck (I think that’s what they were called at the time. They were called cassette decks, right?). Anyway, the cassette starts up, and the first song I hear was “Press Play“; which, to me, felt more like a free form jazz exploration already in progress. It was quaint. From there comes the first non-instrumental, “Pop’s Love Suicide“, and this, is THE song that sets the tone for the rest of the album. The production, as done by Brendan O’Brien of Tiny Music… is dirty, but not Grunge dirty. No, with this album, STP willingly shed their skin of the grunge label, singling themselves from the herd that still championed grunge almost two years after Kurt Cobain’s death.
Tiny Music… is almost Beatle-esque in its song structures. Clearly, Stone Temple Pilots were after more than just a hot, hit single. They wanted to release an album of pop hits, and they succeeded in doing so. This, as it would turn out, would be Stone Temple Pilots most exemplary definition of a pop album. Biased as I am in thinking that this is one of the greatest albums to come out before, or since, it spawned four singles (Big Bang Baby, Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart, Lady Picture Show, and Tumble In The Rough). Like the Manson Family murders marked the end of The Summer Of Love in the 1960’s, so too did Tiny Music… put the final nail into the coffin of the “Seattle sound” (Stone Temple Pilots are California wagon jumpers, so why they were even attached to the “Seattle sound”, I’ll never know. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder was also not, nor has he ever, been from Seattle, but he sure as fuck wore the flannel to signify how chilly he too can get; although having never been in the city before the then-burgeoning scene started exploding. But enough nitpicking…).)
Tiny Music… put the final nail into the coffin of “the Seattle sound”
I urge anyone who has not heard this album to give it a good listen. Once is not enough and you’ll see that for yourself. Coming in at almost 42 minutes, I dare you not to press play again. Hell, I’m letting the disc have its second go around as we speak. Stone Temple Pilots can try and replace their lead singer with a lead singer who’s just as good; but, the fact remains, for as good as Chester Bennington is vocally, is he Scott Weiland? No, and he never will be. Whether or not Stone Temple Pilots replaced Scott, or Scott left the group, or died from an overdose, is not the point. The point is that the Stone Temple Pilots will never be as good as their first three albums, with honorable mention being given to the one we’ve been discussing. Tiny Music… is the culmination of everything that was right with the 1990’s. I’m probably the only one you’ll find who holds up this album in the highest of esteem, but that’s because it warrants and commands that. Yet, don’t take my word for it. Decide for yourselves. Feel free to hook yourselves up here. Hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I have over the years.