Friday, June 04, 2010

CD of the Day: ‘Tiny Music … Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop,’ Stone Temple Pilots (1996)

This is an album for people who love albums (or CDs, as the case may be). “Tiny Music” is best heard start to finish, where the pacing and sequencing drive home how far and wide the band went for this release. From the “Press Play” instrumental intro through the fadeout of “Seven Caged Tigers,” this is Stone Temple Pilots at their artistic peak.

Stylistically this release was jarring at first—most notably Scott Weiland’s tremulous voice that sounds nothing like his bellowing on “Core” just four years earlier. The sludgy days of that debut album are (thankfully) eradicated, too, replaced by some of the best pop songs STP ever wrote. Lead single “Big Bang Baby” uncurls like a psychedelic snake (I love that key change toward the end), while “Lady Picture Show” gives “Interstate Love Song” a run for its money. “Adhesive” is a more than serviceable ballad, and “And So I Know” even successfully flirts with a jazz lounge feel. The pure adventurous spirit on display throughout this record even justifies a cheeky track like “Art School Girl.”

That’s not to say the band forgot how to rock during these recording sessions—quite the contrary, as “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart” is one of their all-time greats. “Tiny Music” also offers a trio of taut, driving rockers in “Pop’s Love Suicide,” “Tumble in the Rough,” and “Ride the Cliché.” STP saved their best for last, though, with the pure, clean lines of “Seven Caged Tigers,” one of their most underappreciated songs.

“Tiny Music” took some getting used to, certainly, but the sheer variety of musicmaking on display here rewards repeat listens. This is just such an interesting album. Consistently great? Not exactly. But never boring, and that’s what makes it such a joy to this day.

Grade: A-

Favorite Track: “Seven Caged Tigers”

Least Favorite Track: “And So I Know”

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