Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tiny Music . . . Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop - Stone Temple Pilots (1996)

Reminiscing STP's third and their most musically diverse album.

Ripping off the Seattle grunge sound is second nature to a lot of new alternative rock renaissance bands these days, but Stone Temple Pilots often simply called STP was one of the first pioneering grunge rock bands to do so and pay the price. The Stone Temple Pilots were one of the most critically despised bands on the planet then because they were playing an entirely different style of music before grunge got popular. 

When the band changed their name from Mighty Joe Young and started to play grunge, the "poseurs" label seemed all too fitting. STP's debut album, Core (1992), was seen as little more than a blatant attempt to cash in on Alice in Chains' sound. Their second album Purple (1994) was a giant step ahead of Core, and even some of the band's biggest enemies in the press had to confess that Purple was pretty good. That's why Tiny Music...Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop(1996), their experimental third album was sort of a public statement to assert their musical talent and independent reputation.

This album unlike their predecessors was a complete departure from their trademark heavy grunge sound to new virgin territory mixing genres that included 60's style psychedelic rock,  jangle pop and even shoe gaze forcing the rock world to evaluate the band again. While many fans lambasted the album calling it a needless experimentation, STP critics considered this was proof of worthless imitators who had survived their questionable history. 

Tiny Music... only contains twelve tracks including 2 small instrumentals. "Art School Girl" is a strong remake of Tripping Daisy's "I Got a Girl" with Scott Weiland's trippy voice replacing Tim DeLaughter's smiling whimsy. "Lady Picture Show" uses the same guitar sound as "Interstate Love Song," but with a different flavour. However, Weiland's lyrics are the album's most glaring weakness. Consider this example: "My friend Blue he runs the show/ with hot pink purple China glow." Yuck. The best lyric on Tiny Music.. describes the Stone Temple Pilots almost perfectly: in "Ride the Cliché," Weiland sings "Just because you're so clichéd/ It don't mean you won't get paid." He should know. Scott Weiland was later fired from the band and its now called Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington.

In spite of less than expected commercial success, mixed reviews and a failed promo tour, fortunately for STP, Tiny Music... Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop garnered enough mainstream praise with Rolling Stone calling it the Best STP Album ever. Lets face it, nobody ever claimed that STP could play catchy pop music, and "Pop's Love Suicide" "Tumble in the Rough" and "Big Bang Baby" are all fine examples of tuneful bubblegum grunge. In fact, "Big Bang Baby", "Lady Picture Show", and "Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart" reached the NO.1 spots on the mainstream charts propelling the album to Double Platinum status. If you've only known STP for their grunge sound, at least for curiosity sake, you should definitely check it out.


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