Stone Temple Pilots, Core
The self-loathing template for modern rock's theatre of pain
Many people blame the influence of Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam when running down their lists of complaints regarding post-grunge. But the debut effort by the San Diego outfit Stone Temple Pilots is the real touchstone for so many of the tortured yarls and mournful-yet-pummeling guitars that held an iron grip over most mainstream rock radio stations until very recently. At the time of its release, Core was written off as yet another entry in the post-Seattle land rush; more cynical observers sneered that the pink-haired man contorting his facial muscles and raising his voice into a yelp in the video for the power-murder-ballad "Plush" actually looked kind of like Vedder in a Technicolor wig. Nearly two decades later, though, it's obvious that Core owes far more of a debt to the bleak, sprawling nihilism of Alice In Chains than it does to Pearl Jam's relative optimism.
Whatever its origins, the album spawned five songs that remain in heavy rotation. "Plush" was the band's breakthrough song, its dead-girl-as-breakup-metaphor outlined with abstract lyrics over a chugging beat; "Creep" is a quiet suicide lament. But the album's opener "Dead & Bloated," a five-minute stomp in which Weiland grunts about being beaten up and down by the world over a swamp-stomp beat, is probably the group's signature song, and certainly its most influential — even if the harmonizing moans that rain down at key points owe a lot to Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell's theories of spooky minor chords. On later albums, STP would experiment with sounds both sunnier and more glammed-out; that Core remains the best-selling entry in its catalog likely says a fair amount about the hunger for a particular brand of downcast, self-loathing rock and roll in which any fun is almost-instantly rewarded with pain.