Comeback albums by their very nature can be extremely rocky territory for bands. At best they can re-energise and bring back to life a once great band, elevating them back to their former creative peak if not commercial status (See Alice in Chains' Black Gives Way to Blue album). At worst they can be a second rate rehash of former glories, leaving a sour taste and offering only a reminder of why their older material was so good: for example Hole's Nobody's Daughter album and Strays by Jane's Addiction. Thankfully, Stone Temple Pilots' self-titled new album, their first in nine years, falls into the former category. Put simply, these guys are back, and it rocks.
The album opens with recent single Between the Lines, which is a sub-three minute rock monster. With no fanfare or unnecessary build up, you're instantly hit with layers of guitars. It sounds like classic STP, but faster, more to the point, a band hungry for their place at the top of the pile. This is a theme throughout the album: there are only two songs which pass the four minute mark. This doesn't count against the album though - the songs say everything they need to. Tracks like Fast As I Can, Take a Load Off and Hazy Days all pack as much of a punch as the most hard hitting songs from the STP back catalogue such as Down and even Sex Type Thing.
One thing that really hits you about this album is the quality of the guitar work. There are some brilliant hard rock riffs, for example Hazy Days, which will lodge itself in your head for days on end. As well as the riffs, there are some truly breathtaking guitar solos. Huckleberry Crumble and Hickory Dichotomy for example feature some jaw dropping technical skill. Sometimes the guitars lend an almost 70s throwback tone to the songs, which is no bad thing. As these guys have grown older, clearly their ability has not faded at all.
Of course, it's not all about rocking this go-round with STP. One of their strengths in the past has been their more textured, slower songs, like fan-favourite Adhesive and Sour Girl. This album caters for them too, with the anthemic Dare If You Dare and the album's epic closer Maver, which ends with some beautiful interplay between the guitar and a piano. Make no mistake, this is the most upbeat and positive Stone Temple Pilots have ever sounded. Cinnamon and Bagman are poppy tracks, filled with great hooks.
To sum up, Stone Temple Pilots have come back fighting, seemingly leaving all their past baggage at the door. This is a solid album - it offers something different to the previous five albums, while still sounding like Stone Temple Pilots. With time, this could even stand up next to those albums. If you were in a band in the 90s and you're thinking of making a comeback, take note: this is how it's done.