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Album reviews: New releases from the Stone Temple Pilots & Smashing Pumpkins

Stp_240 Stone Temple Pilots never earned the respect showered upon fellow grunge-era acts such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana. But thanks to a deep understanding of rock-radio principles (and to frontman Scott Weiland's bad-boy tabloid appeal), they did earn something arguably more valuable: money.

Nearly a decade after the band's last studio disc, STP's hits remain staples on stations like L.A.'s KROQ-FM, and a reunion tour in 2008 drew huge crowds at venues including the Hollywood Bowl.

That commercial instinct is still in evidence throughout “Stone Temple Pilots,” which sounds like it could've come out mere months after 2001's “Shangri-La Dee Da.” In fact, given the legal, professional and medical turmoil Weiland has experienced over the years since the band's original breakup, it's surprising to hear how upbeat most of these dozen tracks sound.

“First Kiss on Mars” shimmers with glittery glam-rock guitars, while “Between the Lines” layers the singer's familiar sneer over a peppy pop-metal groove. In the latter tune Weiland references his troubles with heroin, but does it in a way that's almost cheery: “You always were my favorite drug,” he sings, “even when we used to take drugs.”

Of course, the shape of the Top 40 has changed significantly since the early '00s; these days there's far less space than there used to be for white guys with guitars. So although some of these songs feel like hits, their success seems far from guaranteed.

SMASHING_PUMPKINS_240 Billy Corgan sounds resigned to that marginalization on “Teargarden by Kaleidyscope Vol. 1: Songs for a Sailor,” a new Smashing Pumpkins EP that collects four tracks recently released for free on the Internet. (In a typically audacious move by the only original Pumpkins member still in the band, Corgan plans to issue 11 such EPs under the “Teargarden” rubric.)

Where 2007's “Zeitgeist” found the frontman attempting to revive the hard-pop splendor of “Siamese Dream,” here he's more interested in exploring his music's jammy, psychedelic side, with winding song structures, lyrics about endless seas and astral planes, and buckets of circa-'70s guitar fuzz. “A Song for a Son,” the EP's six-minute closer, could be the Beatles' “I Want You (She's So Heavy)” mashed with “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin.

That fixation on headphone-trip arcana doesn't mean the new songs lack hooks: “A Stitch in Time,” for example, opens with a folky acoustic figure that openly echoes “Disarm,” one of Smashing Pumpkins' biggest hits.

But unlike “Stone Temple Pilots,” “Songs for a Sailor” seems indifferent to what's happening on the radio right now. It's a blast of arty alt-rock escapism, short and not so sweet.

— Mikael Wood

Stone Temple Pilots
“Stone Temple Pilots”
Two and a half stars (Out of four)

Smashing Pumpkins
“Teargarden by Kaleidyscope Vol. 1: Songs for a Sailor”
(Martha's Music/Rocket Science Ventures)
Two and a half stars (Out of four)

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Comments () | Archives (3)

uh bro, A Song for a Son is the EP opener. The tracks on smashingpumpkins.com is in descending order from latest release to first (A Song for a Son). And how is Zeitgeist like Siamese Dream?

Yeah, I don't hear Disarm in A Stitch in Time either. They both have an acoustic guitar, strummed at a moderately fast tempo. How many other songs have that superficial resemblance?

I have been a fan since 1992. I'm in my early 30's and have stayed true to this band;always will. I was at their concert on Long Island at Jones Beach. They were pretty awesome as always(this is my 3rd time seeing them live) but I noticed when they said they were about to "play a new one", the crowd let out a bit of a groan. Now I had purchased their new album when it first came out but because I was busy with life, hadn't had a chance to really sit down and listen to it. Went on a road trip with the wife (who is also a big fan) and went through the whole album. I gotta say, this is the SOFTEST album STP has ever released. And I thought Vatican was kinda soft. Halfway through we were looking at each other going, "HUH???" I hear you people talking about "evolving" and that's all well and good. Thing is, you're supposed to get BETTER as you evolve. NOwhere on this album is there any of the guts hard rock that made STP one of the best bands of the 90's. We kept waiting and waiting and waiting........nada. NOTHING!?!? Not a ONE. Surely they must have heard the reaction from the crowd at Jones when they were going gonzo for Sex Type Thing, Plush and Still Remains, yet heard crickets when they played anything from the new album. I sure hope so because while I love em' and will continue to support them, i know a WHOLE lot of people who will not if this is the direction they are taking.


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