Stone Temple Pilots – No.4
On October 26th 1999, Stone Temple Pilots released their forth studio album entitled, yes you guessed right, No.4 to favorable to mixed reviews from critics. Following the success of 1996’s Tiny Music, STP had entered something of a hiatus, thanks in part to singer Scott Welland’s ongoing drug addictions which had left the remaining band members bassist Robert Deleo, guitarist Dean Deleo and drummer Eric Kretz to form a side band called Talk Show, whilst Weiland tried to clean up his act. Indeed Weiland himself had being busy around this time also, with the release of his debut solo album 12 Bar Blues and still harboring some resentment toward his estranged band-mates after a perceived public trashing by band in a press conference some time before.
However, time heals all wounds sometimes and it was not long before both parties realized more music should be made for the betterment of everyone involved. Weiland, writing in his autobiography, described the writing sessions for the record as: “…the songs were written together live. Brendan O’Brien our brilliant longtime producer, urged us simply to put our hearts and souls on the line” and described, rather dismissively, the resulting album as “a good record of generic rock”. Conversely, the surviving members, speaking to Yahoo Music in 2017 candidly discussed their frustrations with their troubled front-man with Robert Deleo stating that; “Resentment was growing since Purple… there was a window during the making of No.4 that Scott, genuinely, had got the clarity of the Core days. He was genuinely sober, genuinely focused, looking great and all there… a great energy to take the band to the next place” with Kretz stating that; “The touring for No.4 was great, when Scott got out of jail completely sober, finally clean and he was on fire” and Dean Deleo stating that; “straight out, he was clean…he felt like he had a lot of ground to make up”‘ In truth all the band did, it was high time for the band to get the show back on the road and deliver and boy did they.
No.4 kicks things off with “Down”, the lead single from the album. Beginning with an impossibly heavy down-tuned riff, the track lurches in a metallic mass punctuated by a catchy chorus refrain of “Yeah I’ve been waiting for my Sunday girl” before featuring a frantic riff from Dean Deleo. “Down” neatly showcases the more heavy aspects of the bands sound and harkens back to the Core days, a great opener to the record. This vibe continues with the next track “Heaven & Hotrods”, beginning with a wonderful gasoline soaked snaky riff which continues throughout the verse sections before opening into a sunburst chorus section all the time anchored by Robert’s rumbling bass and metronome drumming from Kretz with Weiland deploying the style of vocal that would find much favor in his Velvet Revolver days. The song is great fun and something of an underrated tune from the band. “Pruno” follows and it is so far the first track on No.4 that follows the tried and true trip rock/pop of STP’s previous two records. As such the track feels slightly throwaway not because it’s an awful track, far from it, it just feels like it’s been done before and done slightly better. Still the track features an interesting schizophrenic riff with grooving bass underneath and Scott Weiland sounds the best he had in years on this track, a vocal performance that interestingly gets better and better as the album progresses.
The excellent “Church on Tuesday” is next beginning with jangly guitar before transiting into more robust secondary riff before then returning to the original riff. There is a lot of interesting things going on guitar wise on this track (note the ascending scale riff just before the second chorus) and that is what makes this underrated tune so interesting. Robert’s bass noodles along filling in the gaps nicely and Weiland is on top form here; you really cannot argue with excellent lyrics such as: “Father’s always smoking and your Mom’s at church on Tuesday and your brother’s always drinking and dying”. The song ends out in a kind of bebop, poppy vocal refrain from Weiland and it’s utterly brilliant. No. 4′s big single,”Sour Girl” is next beginning with wistful guitar and excellent melodic bass from the hugely underrated. Robert Deleo which drives the song forward. The catchy simple chorus of “What would you do, what would you do if I followed you” is both eerie and poignant and the track has ‘hit single’ written all over it. The accompanying video is suitably trippy and sinister and a real treat for those of you who grow up in the nineties. Still the best decade ever.
After emotional turmoil we get “No Way Out” a gloriously demented heavy rocker, beginning with atmospheric vocal effects before leading into a heavy guitar riff which continues throughout. The track is once again reminiscent of the Core days and features an interesting middle section with Weiland’s taunts of “Give it away now motherfucker, now give it away” the track is a hulking slab of alt-metal and all the better for it. “Sex & Violence” follows beginning with an arena rock styled riff before leading into an impossibly catchy chorus section. The track is a solid tune and Weiland is in his element here. “Glide” is next up and it’s one of the best tracks to be found on No.4. The song begins with more jingle jangle guitar before launching into the verse sections complete with idiosyncratic guitar overdubs which features excellent vocal from Weiland especially the falsetto just before the song’s chorus section; it is obvious that Weiland’s voice had gotten something of a break around this time and his attempts to remain sober only contributed to his stronger vocal presence on this record, easily his strongest since Core. “Glide” is a massively underrated STP tune which is now been resurrected and been played live by the band.
However the best track on No.4, to this reviewers ears at least, is “I Got You” a kind of lovers lullaby beginning with a slightly country infused riff accompanied by rumbling baritone bass and spare drums with tasteful keys, the song evokes the spirit of The Beatles, but is still an utterly original tune with evocative lyrics such as; “And I got you to paint the sorrow on my day and I got you to paint the roses on my grave”, the track has a mournful eerie air and it a criminally underrated track.
“MC5” is both a tribute of sorts to the band of the same name and interestingly a totally different sounding track to the rest of the record. The track is a gloriously fun, balls-to-the- wall furious rocker (someone even breaks a string!) and at just 2.42 it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. No.4 finishes with “Atlanta”, perhaps the greatest album closer ever. “Atlanta” is a remarkable tune and lyrically Weiland is on top form here with beautiful lyrics lamenting those who go away such as “memories of candles and incense and all of these things, remember these”. Musically the song is utterly gripping, you would stand in the rain listening to it, beginning with a wistful guitar riff, which remains spare throughout and emotive bass swellings with laid-back drums before a highly atmospheric middle section leading to a triumphant outro made all the more poignant and haunting with the albums dying notes played on the Marimba by Screaming Trees drummer Barret Martin. The song is, quite simply, a masterpiece.
Shortly after the release of No.4 Weiland would serve a one year jail term for possession of narcotics and violation of probation. As such, touring for the record was virtually non-existent and promotion even less so. A missed opportunity for the band, among many, many others and it was only really the decision to release “Sour Girl” as a single which kept the record alive in the public conscience. Critics at the time were lukewarm to the album with many burnt out with post grunge and nu metal becoming the next big thing. I feel that No.4 is a great STP record, maybe the last truly great album from the band, although as I have reviewed earlier in this series, Shangri La-Dee-Da is certainly not without it’s merits. No.4 has a certain attitude though which is hard to argue with; put bluntly it’s a middle finger to the bands naysayers and distractors and there were many of them at this time. If you haven’t given the record a listen for a while do revisit it again and if you are new to the band, this album is the perfect more accessible way to get into Stone Temple Pilots. You’ll never look back.
David Ritz with Scott Weiland, Scott Weiland – Not Dead and Not for Sale, A Memoir, Canongate, New York, 2011.
Backspin: Stone Temple Pilots talk No. 4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHHhyIHlnyM