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Every Stone Temple Pilots Album, Ranked

From the ‘90s hits with Scott Weiland to late-period projects with Chester Bennington and Jeff Gutt
Stone Temple Pilots in 1996 (photo: John Eder).

The San Diego quartet originally known as Mighty Joe Young completed its lineup in 1989 when bassist Robert DeLeo invited his guitar-playing brother Dean DeLeo to join his band with singer Scott Weiland and drummer Eric Kretz. In 1992, they signed to Atlantic Records and completed their debut album before realizing they’d have to change their name, which had been well established by a Chicago blues guitarist. As alternative music surged on MTV and at radio, the newly dubbed Stone Temple Pilots became massive stars after the release of the multi-platinum Core, but respect from critics came slowly and more grudgingly. Over the course of the ‘90s, the band derided as the nadir of grunge came into their own as glammy classic rock revivalists with one of the era’s most talented and charismatic lead singers.

Stone Temple Pilots took a few prolonged hiatuses –  sometimes to explore side projects and solo albums, sometimes due to Weiland’s struggles with addiction and stints in rehab. Weiland was fired from STP for the last time in 2013 and replaced by Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, and tragically, both singers died in the space of two years (Weiland by overdose in 2015 and Bennington by suicide in 2017). The surviving members of Stone Temple Pilots have since soldiered on with singer Jeff Gutt and released new albums in 2018 and 2020.  

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of STP’s sophomore album, Purple, we revisit the merits of the band’s discography.

9. Stone Temple Pilots (2018)

Weiland had been out of Stone Temple Pilots for a couple years at the time of his death. Still, it felt a little callous, or at least thoughtlessly timed, when his former bandmates announced an online audition for a new lead singer in February 2016, two months after Weiland’s passing. The singer they eventually selected, Gutt, had kicked around the music industry for a long time, competing in two seasons of the Fox reality show The X Factor and releasing one major label album with the L.A. nu metal band Dry Cell. With the release of the single “Meadow,” it became clear that they’d been looking for a soundalike, and Gutt nails Weiland’s vocal tone and even looks a little like him. The lilting midtempo “Thought She’d Be Mine” features one of Dean DeLeo’s finest guitar solos, but the uncanny valley quality is hard to get past. I caught STP at a festival in 2022, and the band did pleasant, professional renditions of their early hits, while quickly running through two songs from Stone Temple Pilots to tepid applause.

8. High Rise EP (2013)

Bennington grew up listening to Stone Temple Pilots, and the Linkin Park frontman got to perform with his idols for the first time in 2001, when both bands were on the Family Values tour. Bennington and Weiland sang the Shangri-La Dee Da track “Wonderful” together, and a live recording was released as a single. A decade later, STP fired Weiland, and Bennington stepped in as their new frontman, even though he was still pretty busy releasing platinum albums and touring arenas with Linkin Park. STP played about 60 shows from 2013 to 2016 with Bennington and also released this five-song EP. “Cry Cry” and the radio hit “Out of Time” offer big, memorable choruses and strutting riffs, but the self-produced effort sounds a little flat, and only seems to scratch the surface of the Bennington/STP collaboration. It also just doesn’t quite sound like Stone Temple Pilots. At best, High Rise feels like it could’ve been the beginning of something, like a new band with its own name and identity. Sadly, given Bennington’s 2017 death, we’ll never know what could have been.

7. Stone Temple Pilots (2010)

In the mid-2000s, the members of Stone Temple Pilots did the supergroup shuffle: Weiland and a few ex-Guns N’ Roses guys formed Velvet Revolver, while the rest of STP linked up with Filter’s Richard Patrick as Army of Anyone. STP reconvened in 2008 for a couple years of reunion tours before recording their sixth album in the band members’ home studios. Stone Temple Pilots, produced by the DeLeo brothers, just doesn’t leap out of the speakers like their earlier albums, unintentionally making the case for how important producet Brendan O’Brien was to the STP sound. The album isn’t without its charms — “Huckleberry Crumble” has an Aerosmith swagger, and “First Kiss on Mars” is a surreal, jangly delight. Stone Temple Pilots was the band’s highest charting album since Purple, but It feels like the kind of hollow “comeback” album that’s forgotten as soon as its singles vanish from radio playlists.

6. Perdida (2020)

Hits such as “Creep” and “Big Empty” and a revelatory 1993 episode of MTV Unplugged demonstrated how STP, like grunge contemporaries Alice in Chains, could tap into something compelling and soulful when they went acoustic. It took the band a couple decades to finally explore their quiet side for an entire album, but Perdida is an understated triumph, with Gutt sounding less like a Weiland impersonator on the more downtempo material. “I Didn’t Know the Time” has a stately grace to it, and even a flute solo. Robert DeLeo, the longtime creative engine of the band, takes his first lead vocal in the STP catalog, crooning the FM gold ballad “Years.” “With shifting moods, pretty pianos, Italian-sounding guitar finessing, Gutt’s imposing voice, and atmospheric violins, album closer ‘Sunburst’ envelopes the listener, taking them on a journey across layered soundscapes,” wrote Chris Harris in the SPIN review of Perdida.

5. No. 4 (1999)

In the late ‘90s, Stone Temple Pilots took a prolonged break as Weiland went into rehab and then released his first solo album, while the DeLeo brothers and Kretz started a short-lived new band, Talk Show. By the time STP returned in 1999, the nu metal era was in full swing, and they shrewdly leaned into a heavier sound that harkened back to Core on lead single “Down.” No. 4 also swings hard in the opposite direction with the slickest pop song in the STP catalog, “Sour Girl,” with surprisingly great results. Other than paying homage to Detroit proto punk trailblazers on “MC5,” STP tone down their retro aesthetic on No. 4 for a more streamlined album that nevertheless lacks some of the personality and panache of their best work. 

4. Shangri-La Dee Da (2001)

Shangri-La Dee Da heralded the return of Tiny Music’s playful potpourri of ‘60s and ‘70s influences, and Dean DeLeo leaned into some of his most unapologetic Jimmy Page homages on rockers such as “Regeneration.” Despite the silly title, “Bi-Polar Bear” is one of Weiland’s most vulnerable songs, written after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The frontman also goes perhaps a little too far on the thinly veiled Courtney Love broadside “Too Cool Queenie,” outright blaming her for Kurt Cobain’s death. After Shangri-La Dee Da became the first STP album to fall short of platinum sales, the quartet quietly disbanded and released a greatest hits album, Thank You, in 2003.

3. Core (1992)

Atlantic Records initially marketed Stone Temple Pilots to metalheads, sending them out on tour with Megadeth and making their first MTV interview an appearance on Headbanger’s Ball. Core’s first single, “Sex Type Thing,” was an anti-rape song that many interpreted as a misogynist pro-rape anthem. The second single, “Plush,” was an ominous but tuneful midtempo song about the kidnapping and murder of a young girl. The album eventually sold eight million copies, but Weiland’s baritone growl was constantly compared to Eddie Vedder’s as STP was dinged as a late, unwelcome arrival to the grunge bandwagon. Core remains, however, a distinctively heavy and relentlessly catchy album that made the band and producer Brendan O’Brien into music industry heavyweights. O’Brien even got hired to produce the next Pearl Jam album, Vs., so clearly, Vedder and company weren’t bothered by all the chatter.

2. Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop (1996)

Just a few years after STP had come to personify the dour, scowling face of grunge, the band turned out to have a better sense of humor and a more developed idea of camp than just about any of their contemporaries. The ludicrously titled Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop revealed Weiland as the most dedicated David Bowie acolyte of mainstream ‘90s rock, while Robert DeLeo brought pastoral easy listening beauty to “And So I Know” and the instrumental “Daisy.” The only STP song with music composed entirely by Kretz, the frenetic rocker “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart,” became the album’s most enduring single, and the 81-second opener “Press Play” is one of the band’s grooviest little riffs. 

1. Purple (1994)

Stone Temple Pilots were named the “worst new band” by Rolling Stone editors in an issue recapping 1993, but a few months later, the band’s shockingly good sophomore album began winning over skeptics. “Weiland’s emotions are now willing to soar, while the music is confident enough to expand inside its chosen pop-rock arena,” wrote Lorraine Ali in RS’s review of Purple. The first sign that STP had an impish sense of humor could also be found on the back cover of Purple, which simply showed a picture of a cake decorated with the words “12 gracious melodies” in lieu of a tracklist. The 12th song itself was also a joke – a jaunty tune performed by lounge singer Richard Peterson in the style of Johnny Mathis to celebrate the band’s second album. The 11 proper songs demonstrated STP’s surprising range, from the trippy backwards guitar and layered percussion on “Lounge Fly” to the twangy melody of the alt-rock radio staple “Interstate Love Song” and the scrappy garage rocker “Unglued.”