Once one of the most memorable bands of the ‘90s alternative and grunge wave, Stone Temple Pilots has become known more in the last five years for death rather than depth– first, with the overdose of original singer Scott Weiland in 2015, then with the suicide of second singer and Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington in 2017. The band continued rather than disband with Weiland soundalike Jeff Gutt and released their second eponymous album the following year to mixed reception, their first LP release since 2010.
STP has nevertheless maintained an optimistic outlook despite the tumult, and have steered into new territory with their latest release, Perdida. Pitched from the outset as being more acoustically-based with a mix of other instruments, including a flute, the album comes off on its promotional surface as essentially being Days Of The New with a ragtag experimental orchestra littered abound. Having been one of many bands to partake in the MTV Unplugged craze in the 1990s, STP is no stranger to doing acoustic renderings of their own work- regardless, this purported new phase in their career is nothing if not intriguing from its premise.
The album opens ironically with the track “Fare Thee Well” which was released as a single back in December. A tender number, even in comparison to loungy numbers like “And so I Know” off Tiny Music, Gutt muses to an estranged lover: “Got my heart out in my hand and don’t you know it?/Something deep inside’s come over me.” “Three Wishes” sounds a bit closer to traditional STP with some exotic percussion thrown into the mix, while “Perdida” increases the cosmopolitanism of its namesake record ten fold by diving into string-assisted Spanish balladry.
“I Didn’t Know the Time” rebounds closer to familiar Stone Temple territory once more, albeit with some light keys and the aforementioned flutery brought to light by Eric Kretz back in October. The fluting continues over into the chilled-out, tangentially jazzy “Years”, which opens up in soul-ish fashion with its minimal drums and keys and graduates into a near-perfect evocation of Alan Parsons playing “Eye In The Sky” acoustically at a beachside cafe (or at the Vatican Gift Shop). “She’s My Queen” harkens back to the ‘90s with light female vocal backing percussion to freshen up the old flavour, not to mention, once again, a flute solo by backing artist Adrienne Byrne which to her credit has worked surprisingly well thus far.
Before anyone can say “Hey aqualung”, The gang turns back to somber folk sounds from abroad with “Miles Away”, lamenting once more on lost love and the pain of the distance, literal or figurative that it brings. “You Found Yourself While Losing Your Heart” is a vibrant blend of acoustic and electric guitars alike, while “I Once Sat at Your Table” keeps it acoustic- and brief- with a slight bit of stringage for tasteful effect. The closer comes with “Sunburst”, ending on an ear-pleasing, quintessentially STP-esque note despite the experimentation throughout the course of the record. The best songs are ones that evoke imagery: “Sunburst”, true to its title, brings forth the image of a bright, blinding sun expanding and shining over the world on a clear day in its outro, ending formally with a short orchestral smattering before calling it a day.
Perdida shows Stone Temple Pilots in a unique, new and exciting place in their careers: Playing with new sounds and making them work in a manner that sounds cohesive, thought-out and sensical instead of random and misguided. They also manage to stay true to their roots while in the midst of all this testing of the waters, not differing in the slightest from their long-crafted identity as STP regardless of who the vocal proprietor may be at the helm. It is in sum, a highly satisfactory record and an interesting shift in direction for the band, one that promises great things and continued longevity in the future.