90’s score: 9/10
2020 score: 7/10
With respect to the grunge genre, but in essence the entire rock world, 1994 is forever associated with the death of Kurt Cobain, the aftermath of which basically signalled the end of the entire scene. There were still a select few groups who churned out some incredible releases in 94’, Hole’s Live Through This, Live’s Throwing Copper and a sophomore release from the San Diego, CA quartet Stone Temple Pilots Purple. Though STP did a lot on Purple to separate themselves from their grunge compatriots, branching into a more psychedelic bluesy driven rock, they never truly escaped the term.
Purple opens with by far the heaviest track on the album “Meatplow,” which could easily be mistaken for a Jerry Cantrell riff/Alice In Chains number. Solid track that it is, for my money the album truly gets going with the following song “Vasoline.” Coming in with an off-kilter drum beat, the song drives forward steadily thanks to the pristine craftsmanship of the DeLeo brothers Dean and Robert on guitar and bass. Like the song itself, singer Scott Weiland does so much with seemingly so little and rather than forcing range, as so many rock vocalists tend to do, Weiland sits comfortably in the pocket and works his magic. Continuing on that note, check out DeLeo’s guitar solo at two minutes, in and out in ten seconds yet it still feels like a monster solo.
The majority of my words must be reserved for the albums two shining tracks, “Interstate Love Song” and “Big Empty.” Radio friendly driving songs anyone? These are two of the finest, “Interstate Love Song” begins with one of the nicest interplays between acoustic and electric guitar I’ve ever heard and then kicks it into high gear for three blissful minutes of southern tinged, riff-rock that raises a shot glass to the like of Lynyrd Skynyrd. “Big Empty” introduces itself like a lazy day on the porch, whiskey and cigarette in hand, bluesy and groove-laden. “Time to take her home, her dizzy head is conscience laden, time to take a ride it leaves today, no conversation,” Weiland truly starts to separate himself on Purple from frontman to lyricist and poet. “Big Empty” demonstrates that while STP doesn’t subscribe as forcefully to the soft verse loud chorus formula like Nirvana and Soundgarden, they are privy to its merits and know when the right time for it is.
There’s not much left to be wanted on Purple as each song serves up a unique blend of what makes Stone Temple Pilots so palatable and cozy on the ears. “Still Remains” is an under-recognized gem with possibly my favourite lyric in Weiland’s cannon, “If you should die before me ask if you could bring a friend.” “Unglued” brings back the heavy and is the closest they come to sounding as they did on debut Core, much more raw and dirty.
Today’s listener may find Purple too simplistic and down the middle path. Sure it’s not risky or bombastic and in your face, it’s of a much simpler quality and maybe not for the average, I need everything in my face right now listener of today. But if you slow things down, take a nice long drive in the car or kick off your shoes in the back yard with a drink, the beauty and genius of Purple will shed its light on you.
Written by Lee Ferguson
*edited by Mike Milito