In a departure from the usual movie reviews i figured it would be nice to do something different for a change of pace.
Whether it’s a book, or a movie, or in this case an album, it’s always a treat to rediscover something. As i had mentioned earlier in my Big Shiny Tunes 5 write up i lost No. 4 along with a number of other albums that i quite liked (my copy of Songs for the Deaf among them…) when i lost my CD case on a walk home. While i have reacquired most of those lost albums in some way or another the lack of a hard copy of No. 4 has been a thorn in my side for the last 13 or so years…
Well i finally pulled that annoyance to rest recently and went hunting for a CD of Stone Temple Pilot’s forth album. Thankfully i found a decent used copy in the first play i looked, and gave it a spin.
THE TRACKS (* denotes a notable track)
- Heaven & Hot Rods
- Church on Tuesday
- Sour Girl*
- No Way Out*
- Sex & Violence
- I Got You*
As the stark album artwork might suggest No. 4 is an album of dichotomies. Nowhere is this more apparent when comparing the book ends of the album, starting with perhaps their heaviest song Down and working its way to the acoustic, whistle along guitar ballad of Atlanta. Thankfully the sequencing of the album is superb and allows the album to switch its tones smoothly over its 42 minute running time. As the plodding pace of Down is immediately lifted up by the grungy headbanging of Heaven & Hot Rods, whose chugging rhythms are then followed up by the shiny Pruno. Which is exemplary of the type of guitar pop song that the Stone Temple Pilots could do in their sleep.
Church on Tuesday shows the hand of the sequencer, who uses the song’s slower tempo and fade out ending to reel in the energy of the preceding tracks before unleashing the albums first masterpiece: Sour Girl. The band uses the song’s four minute run time to constantly add more and more subtle hooks to their original opening riffs, and with Scott Weiland giving a master class in sing along choruses makes this track one of my favorite songs of all time. The band also knows to keep the energy high by following up Sour Girl‘s laid back atmosphere with another album gem No Way Out. Whose ambient opening quickly turns into a wonderfully crunchy and soaring chorus.
The title of Sex & Violence might suggest a song of manic energy and it certainly doesn’t disappoint, as it comes out faster and louder than Heaven & Hot Rods and brings the album back into speedier harder territory. Glide once again does what it’s title suggests and brings the album back down from the heights reached by the preceding track, and once again just as Pruno was (although less notably) it too is a shining guitar pop song.
Glide‘s mellow colours allow I Got You‘s acoustic pop to blend naturally into the track list. It’s lyrics are the most literal in describing Scott Weiland’s battle with heroin addiction and his recent death makes the earnestness of the song all the more tragic, its also just a damn good guitar pop song. While on the subject of lyrics it would appear that the majority of themes on No. 4 involve either sex or drugs and certainly help lend the album its darker tone.
MC5 is another fast and driving song that injects the album with one last big of grunge powered energy before Atlanta slides in to close things up. Atlanta is perhaps the Stone Temple Pilot’s most majestic song, with its arranged strings, melancholic tones, and wooden xylophone ending it provides a wonderful closing to the album.
SHOULD YOU STAY OR SHOULD YOU GO
Overall No. 4 has the Stone Temple Pilots displaying their mastery in combining more often than not dark lyrics with wonderfully strong pop song craft to create a uniformly strong set of songs. It also has the benefit of strong sequencing that stops the album’s tracks from clashing with one another, and maintains a consistent atmosphere despite its wild mood swings. It’s certainly worth a look for anyone wanting to explore late 90’s rock, and likely won’t disappoint anyone whose curiosity was piqued with an STP song on the radio.