Has there ever been a band more unfairly maligned in the history of rock music than Stone Temple Pilots? The California quartet — anchored by a pair of brothers and the singular Scott Weiland on the microphone — were victims of what has always been wrong with rock criticism (and what was especially problematic in the 1990s). Their breakthrough single, a dirge called “Plush,” sounded so much like a Pearl Jam track (and if you really break it down, it’s mostly just Weiland sounding a bit like Eddie Vedder) that the group never managed to get out from under the burden of being late-comers to the grunge buffet.
While it’s true that most of STP’s debut Core sounds relatively uninspired and somewhat generic, the band spent the rest of the alt-rock decade crafting some of the most interesting rock on the radio. Their 1994 sophomore release Purple is fantastically underrated and features “Interstate Love Song,” perhaps the best piece of radio rock recorded in the past three decades. In 1996, they really took a left hand turn and dropped Tiny Music … Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop, a strange little album that tapped into foot-stomping glam rock and moody, jazzy experiments. It’s fascinating and strange, but the hooks are great and the vibe strangely jittery.
Of course, Tiny Music nearly destroyed STP, as Weiland got into a bunch of trouble shortly after it was released. As a result, the band never toured for the album, and the group splintered while Weiland worked on a solo project and the remaining trio created a side project called Talk Show. Tiny Music remains one of the band’s weakest albums commercially speaking (though it still managed to shift two million units), and deserves to be remembered as a bold and fascinating experiment. There’s no real reason for focusing on STP today (Tiny Music actually came out in March of 1996), but a little dose of “Big Bang Baby” is just what the doctor ordered to get the blood flowing during a sleepy holiday week.