No. 4

Stone Temple Pilots

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No. 4 Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

It would be tempting to scour No. 4, Scott Weiland's reunion with Stone Temple Pilots, for insights into his troubles, yet the group consciously avoids this throughout the album. That's for the best, since it's their hardest effort since their debut, Core. "Down" and "Heaven & Hot Rods" provide a powerful, brutal opening for No. 4 -- it's as if STP decided to compete directly with the new generation of alt-metal bands who prize aggression over hooks or riffs. With these two songs, the band's attack is as vicious as that of the new generation, but they retain their gift for gargantuan hooks. Much of the album hits pretty hard -- most explicitly on "No Way Out," "Sex & Violence," and "MC5," -- and even the ballads and neo-psychedelic pop have none of the swirling production that distinguished Tiny Music. That sense of adventure is missed, because even if the album finds STP returning to the muscular hard rock that made them, they always sounded better when they concentrated on melodicism. No. 4's most effective moments have a variety of sonic textures and color -- "Pruno" tempers its giant riffs with spacy verses; "Church on Tuesday" is a great pop tune, as are the trippy "Sour Girl" and "I Got You"; and the psychedelic "Glide" and closing ballad, "Atlanta," have a sense of majesty. These songs anchor the heavier moments, instead of the other way around, and it all plays well together. As a matter of fact, No. 4 is as tight as Tiny Music. Even if it isn't as grandiose or sonically compelling as that effort, it's a record that consolidates all their strengths.

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