Hot off the presses: new music! Better said, new music that is worth your time.
Stone Temple Pilots – Stone Temple Pilots – 12 sings / 48 minutes
Armed with yet another lead singer, the DeLeo brothers somehow capture most of the fire and sound of their mid-90s output.
From the opening guitar notes and manic drumming that start “Middle of Nowhere”, it is clear that this record is going to rock. When new singer Jeff Gutt’s vocals begin, you might swear you hear Scott in his voice. Regardless of comparisons to this legendary band’s previous output, this is a solid album on its own merits that conjures back the mid-90s grunge meets glam rock that the DeLeos, Eric Kretz, and Scott Weiland perfected. This is the DeLeos unhinged, and feeling like they have something left to prove. No doubt that is part of why they released this as yet another self-titled album (their first “comeback record” in 2010 also shared the band’s name). This seems like an attempt to brand this new music as true STP and is yet another fresh start at a new era after the passing of both founding vocalist Scott Weiland and his short-lived replacement Chester Bennington.
Jeff Gutt quite frankly shines in his role as lead singer and co-songwriter, and does have a voice that is in Mr. Weiland’s neighborhood. I missed their recent Boise show (Doug was playing the same night and I saw STP back in 2000 which would be pretty tough to beat) but a buddy of mine who went swears that Jeff has not only the vocal range to perform their hits but has done his homework on Scott’s physical quirks also (sans heroin, one would hope).
Lead single “Meadow” is a harmonic and riffy track that features a vocal delivery that is very familiar to long-time STP fans, with an almost call and answer thing going on with only one participant. On “Middle of Nowhere” Jeff sings “Don’t fall in love with the midnight train, because it will leave you in the middle of nowhere”. The implication here is that he, and the band as a whole, are still rambling and not anywhere near ready to settle down. On “Roll Me Under” the message is simple: do with me what you will. Another sing-along rock song that took me back to the Purple and No. 4 eras.
We are even treated to a couple of solid and worthy ballads, the slightly Velvet Revolver-y “Thought She’d Be Mine” – which clocks in at nearly 6 minutes – and the lovely “The Art of Letting Go”. These blend in nicely with the rest of the more hard-hitting tracks on the record. Also, a quick tip of the proverbial cap to drummer Eric Kretz who spends the majority of the album pounding away like a madman.
This is a tough spot for all involved to be in: they are by no means a tribute band or even simply a legacy act living on their past work, but that is how many will perceive this album. If this group can stay together and continue to make albums of this quality, we may well remember STP as a band with two distinct eras. I for one am hopeful for that, because the world needs more fun and free rock and roll.
Key Tracks: “Just A Little Lie”, “Meadow”, “Roll Me Under”
Dean Ween Group – Rock2 – 11 songs / 38 minutes
Dean’s second solo effort is about what we have come to expect from him – immature but fun songs about sex and drugs, although my favorites here are the instrumentals.
Despite the album title, parts of this doesn’t actually rock all that much… but “Showstopper” sure does. Loud and in-your face drums get it started, and keep the beat going while the guitar riff and solos start melting the scene. Oh, there is also a little cowbell thrown in for good measure. This one is a funky three minute delight.
“Fingerbangin’” is downright hilarious, with its obnoxious spoken word delivery of the title, complete with a sniffing sound, all done over a sludgy guitar riff and lot of cymbals and bass drum. In fact, the presentation of the vocals on this track is eerily reminiscent of the South Park “Fingerbang” boy band parody from many years ago (f you do not know this reference, check it out on YouTube right now). Like much of Eagles of Death Metal’s recent output, it rocks while being so over the top that it makes me chuckle. “Love Theme from Skinheads Kicking Your Ass” is an instrumental (if you don’t count grunt/screaming as vocals) that walks the line between punk and rock. Great song title, which is of course another Dean Ween specialty.
Speaking of Dean’s specialties, the epic “Pussy on My Pillow” is reminiscent of classic Ween – it is vulgar, catchy, and most of all, super hokey. I don’t even know where to begin with this thing, but I can say it’s worth a listen. Here is a sample: ‘I’d like to show you where to pee, so lay your pussy on my pillow, put on those furry gloves for me”. This is followed by some gnarly horns and Dean commanding the subject of the song to put a finger up his ass. Thanks, Dean – I guess. The record closes out with “Sunset Over Belmar”, a tasty 5-minute guitar and drum instrumental, with some solid shredding in between periods of calm electric guitar noodling.
Key Tracks: “Sunset Over Belmar”, “Love Theme from Skinheads Kicking Your Ass”, “Fingerbangin’”
The Bonnevilles – Dirty Photographs – 10 songs / 38 minutes
On their fourth LP, and first since their 2016 breakthrough Arrow Pierce My Heart, Andy and Chris give us more of their unique blend of blues and punk rock – although most of it does not live up to the promise of that previous record.
For starters, a disclaimer: I am a big fan of the rock duo format. No frills, just straight-ahead rock with a guitarist/vocalist and a drummer a la White Stripes, early Black keys, Royal Blood, Japandroids, and others is a sound that I typically gravitate towards. Andy McGibbon’s riffs are consistently interesting although something about the band’s production always makes his vocals sound as if they are coming from a tunnel or a well. He has a way of delivering even relatively mellow lines in a strained near-scream. Neither of these things are necessarily bad, they simply add to the uniqueness of their sound.
Hailing from Northern Ireland, these lads wear their blues, rockabilly, and punk influence on their sleeves. Nothing they have released to date is particularly groundbreaking, but they have developed a strong following based on their raw rock sound and energetic live shows. This album is worth a listen for anyone who enjoys some in-your-face and straight ahead guitar rock. If you only want to sample the record, check out the last two songs. The most complex and rewarding track on the album is “The Rebels Shrug” and even includes some background violin. Closer “Robo 6000” is an instrumental with a gnarly guitar riff, and ends with robotic sound effects and bongos, quite an interesting combination.
Key Tracks: “The Rebels Shrug”, “Robo 6000”, “Dirty Photographs”
Also heard (but not recommending):
Mount Eerie – Now Only- This is a dark and heavy album written in memory of Phil’s late wife. The title track and “Tintin in Tibet” are quite fantastic, but beware; this subject matter is not for the faint of heart.
The Decembrists – I’ll Be Your Girl – I never really got too excited about these guys, but I feel like this is worse than they used to be.
Yo La Tengo – There’s a Riot Going On- I have enjoyed some of their previous efforts, but this bored me.
Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens