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‘Stone Temple Pilots’ review: Much smoother than the original band

"Stone Temple Pilots" is the band's new, self-titled album. Photo Credit: Atlantic

STONE TEMPLE PILOTS

“Stone Temple Pilots”

BOTTOM LINE Smooth restart for the “Plush” rockers — a little too smooth.

When Stone Temple Pilots were rolling out one grunge-tinged rock hit after another in the ’90s, you could depend on the DeLeo brothers’ raucous guitar work and singer Scott Weiland’s unpredictability.

With “Stone Temple Pilots” (Atlantic) — the band’s first album in eight years and its first since the deaths of not only Weiland, but his replacement Chester Bennington — Dean DeLeo’s guitar riffs and the rhythm section of bassist Robert DeLeo and drummer Eric Kretz are as solid as ever. But there’s something missing.

That’s not to put the blame on new singer Jeff Gutt, previously best known for his two stints on “The X Factor,” who has a strong voice and his own style. However, the combination just doesn’t have the same spark.

The new STP starts off well with “Middle of Nowhere,” built on a massive wall of guitars and thunderous drums. Gutt’s soaring vocals nicely play off Dean DeLeo’s wailing guitar solos in “Guilty.” The first single “Meadow” has plenty of grungy swagger and Gutt hits some Weiland-esque notes, but it never catches fire even with another cool DeLeo solo. Maybe it’s the sweet harmonies and the mention of sunshine?

Oddly enough, the band seems to fare better when it sounds least like STP. The acoustic jangle of “Thought She’d Be Mine” sounds more like the ’90s psychedelic pop of Jellyfish than the guys who did “Sex Type Thing.” “The Art of Letting Go” conjures up ’80s power ballads, like it’s reinventing Skid Row’s “I Remember You.” Nothing wrong with that vein, especially when it results in catchy songs like “Finest Hour,” but it’s not quite on par with the heights of “Interstate Love Song.”

With “Stone Temple Pilots,” the band is moving past its years of tumult and loss; maybe it’s only natural that they gravitate toward more sweetness and peace.

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