4) Purple - Stone Temple Pilots
Stone Temple Pilots have had a long, strange flightpath since forming as Mighty Joe Young (yes, after the Charlize Theron film!) in 1985. Frontman Scott Weiland has proven in the intervening years to be a bit of a wildcard, with the print devoted to his drug habit almost equaling the amount discussing his craft. The band is rounded out by the more-than-capable Eric Kretz on drums (potentially one of the most underrated alternative sticksmen of the decade due to Matt Cameron being in almost every other fucking grunge band) and the DeLeo brothers, Dean and Robert, on bass and guitar, respectively. The brothers handle the majority of the musical composition with Weiland (who, for a good while during the promotion of the band's first album, "Core", pretended he didn't have a first name) handling lyrics. And oh, what lyrics they are. I've always thought that main difference between STP and the other "grunge" bands of the era were Weiland's vocals. The earnest honesty inherent (say that five times fast) in Eddie Vedder's guttural vocals (while similar to Weiland's on "Core") are a little too upfront. Honestly, I have no fucking clue what Chris Cornell was singing about, but he sounded bitchin' doing it. And then we come to Cobain. Cobain was a heroin addict like Scott Weiland, and some say that it influenced his music in the same way. Where Cobain lyrically brought to mind the Pixies, Weiland was full-on 70's glam, with more than a little bit owed to David Bowie. There's also the inherent knack for harmony that is obvious on STP's music, with Dean DeLeo providing fantastic backup vocals.
"Purple" is where the band came into their own, right as I was doing the same thing. Radio and MTV played such a big role in my life back then- 92.3 and 107.9 planted so many seeds for who I'd become, music videos and Beavis & Butthead, Tag Team and Stone Temple Pilots (because, honestly, who doesn't realize that my catchphrase to this day is "Whoomp! There it is!") The first time I'd heard (or perhaps seen) "Vasoline", the first single off of "Purple", I was at the home of Pat & Nick Matej, and it was probably 3 in the morning, and we were fresh off playing a shitload of Donkey Kong Country or something. It was amazing. The video was so bizarre- the shots of demented clowns, low angle-shot men in lederhosen dancing, blurry shots of the band performing in a blue room... it was mesmerizing.
From there, it goes into the trippy "Lounge Fly", which if I'm not mistaken, was used as a bumper for MTV News once they stopped using Megadeth's "Peace Sells..." intro. It's the first truly psychedelic grunge song I'd ever heard with a great guitar solo. Up next is "Interstate Love Song", which turned out to the album's biggest hit, and subsequently, the band itself's. A pseudo-country melodic reflection on honesty (and the lack thereof) in regards to others (little white lies in interpersonal relationships), and with oneself ("oh, I can quit heroin anytime"), it's easily the band's most accessible work, which does wonders for a 13-year-old who rode his bike to Hills one summer day and bought an album on tape for one song (Spoiler Alert: it was "Vasoline"). We go back to the psychedelic again for the beautiful "Still Remains" ("If you should die before me, ask if you can bring a friend"). After that, it's the only song on the album I really don't care about- "Pretty Penny". Never knew why, just don't like it. Never liked Hamburger Helper either, and people like that just fine. Whatever, onward and upward to side two. "Silvergun Superman" kicks it off, with more throwback charm. Nothing radically great, but it's solid. It's a weird album, really- some would say there's a good amount of filler. I'd say there's an amount of good filler. A few songs aren't remarkable, but they fit well. The next song, "Big Empty" is far from filler. A fragile Weiland vocal paired with some fantastic acoustic guitar on the verses, with a loud chorus with electric guitars and harmonized vocals almost bring to mind the Pixies, but sound so much more epic. Come to think of it, the song almost comes across as a companion to "Plush", from "Core". I remember the soundtrack to "The Crow" (more on that later), and buying it because this was on it, even though I already had it on album. It was that great of a song at the time, and it still is. The album's final three songs "Unglued", "Army Ants", and "Kitchenware and Candybars" are all good, substantial additions to the album, with "Army Ants" featuring the best guitarwork on the entire album, including a blistering solo. The real hidden gem, though, is the loungey little hidden track after "Candybars". Entitled "My Second Album", it's performed by some guy Richard Peterson, whoever the hell that is. I'll tell you what- he really digs him some Johnny Mathis. It's fantastic.