Take a look around outside, on tv or online and you may have noticed something: the 90s are back. Whether it’s in the form of flannel shirts or 3D re-releases of films from the time (to name a couple of examples), there is an undertone – and sometimes a full-on emulation – of whatever it was that comprised the chemical makeup of 90s culture.
Of course, music is in no way exempt from this, and not lest the alternative scene. Bands such as Daylight and the now defunkt Basement are notable for bringing back the hallmarks of grunge and blending them into the hardcore and pop-punk saturated collective. It would only make sense then that actual grunge old-timers make their way back in and show the kids how it’s done and unsurprisingly that already happened, but unfortunately no one was really shown anything. Pearl Jam came back, Soundgarden came back, even Nirvana came back (with Paul McCartney of all people), but none of them took the world by storm like before or retained the grunge feel in any noticeable manner. Now its the turn of Stone Temple Pilots, reformed in 2010 and now revitalised by the addition of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park after their recent legal squabble with former vocalist Scott Weiland – is this when ‘classic’ grunge finally claws its flannel-clad hand out from the dirt? To put it finely, no. Sorry to get your hopes up like that.
27 years from their formation, 2013 sees the band release an EP rather than a full album, entitled ‘High Rise’. The 5 track outing is very much more of an exercise in looking back to the styles of music that influenced the band, particularly classic rock, and not the early outcomes of that influence. With the inclusion of nu-metal poster child Chester Bennington, this EP shapes up to be dad rock for generation Y.
In terms of sound, the EP is comprised of safely mid-paced rock tracks in the vein of AC/DC as well as harder hitting tracks that contain a bit of driving Velvet Revolver-esque energy and a hint of Audioslave inspired groove. Opening track ‘Out of Time’ most heavily encapsulated the later styles, with a hard hitting riff, driving bassline and Chester Bennington’s trademark gruff wail making for 3 minutes of blood pumping, pedal-to-the-metal rock and roll that is practically tailor-made to turn up in the soundtrack for a film filled with classic cars.
The EP doesn’t quite match that energy at any other point but makes up for it in its love affair with bluesy guitar riffs and huge singalong choruses. While not the most inventive lyrically, ‘Same on the Inside’ finds itself pushing its way into the listeners head in the way that any stadium rock song worth its weight should. The same can be found throughout, even down to the simplest of lines such as “yeah yeah” making an impression, though that is certainly more a credit to Chester Bennington’s expressive vocal tone rather than his songwriting ability.
Lacklustre and often inane lyrics aside, this EP really comes into its own in the instrumentation. The guitar solos are frequent and consistent in their high quality, each time managing to hit their strong spot in a classic style – less shoehorned-in shredding and more in the way of bluesy string bends. However, the absolute high point in instrumentation is the bass, which is a rarity and a satisfying change. Throughout every song there is a constant yet unobtrusive string of counter melodies that add to the overall character of each song without taking away from the hallmark elements of rock, being the driving guitar and strong vocals.
Not being a particularly big fan of stadium friendly classic or modern rock, I would be lying if I said that I found this EP easy to get into. However, once in the appropriate frame of mind, the talents of each member make themselves apparent and show Stone Temple Pilots to be just the right combination of thoughtful and ballsy in their approach to instrumentation, though less so in the lyrics. Being a reviewer, ploughing through to solidify an informed opinion is par for the course, but many leisurely listeners will not take that time if not immediately grabbed. As such, this EP is only likely to appeal to listeners who are already interested or inclined to be, but if rock and roll is your bread and butter then you would be hard pressed not to enjoy ‘High Rise’.
‘High Rise’ by Stone Temple Pilots is released on 8th October on Spinefarm Records.
Words by Ben Kosma (@benkosma)