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July 20, 2019

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Return of the ’90s?

STP and the Pumpkins can’t recapture their pasts


Chris Pizzello/AP

Stone Temple Pilots

Here’s a piece of advice I wish I’d heeded in 1996: Kill your idols. Had I followed through, we would have been spared the awful midlife crisis of The Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots, captured in painful detail on two new releases bordering on self parody.

The more egregious is the Pumpkins’ Teargarden by Kaleidyscope Vol. 1: Songs for a Sailor, the first of 11 four-song EPs (!) based on ... Tarot cards?! Having fired or alienated all other original members, Corgan has brought in some kids to back his latest “epic,” promising on the record’s opener that there are “many more to come.” If the first installment is any indication, we can expect a masturbatory mix of Rush and Dokken, masquerading as high art. This ain’t no Siamese Dream.

The Details

The Smashing Pumpkins
Teargarden by Kaleidyscope Vol. 1: Songs for a Sailor

Stone Temple Pilots
Stone Temple Pilots

Stone Temple Pilots get credit for knowing their limitations, perhaps a little too well. Forever the red-headed stepchild of ’90s alternative rock, the band never pretended to dispense anything other than balls-out rock paying homage to the arena gods. STP came into its own on one of the decade’s most underrated gems, Tiny Music From the Vatican Gift Shop, a strange tapestry of rock, pop and lounge.

Fourteen years later, and nearly a decade after “final album” Shangri-La Dee Da, the band is back, with an obligatory, self-titled comeback effort. Sadly, STP lost its Tiny Music magic long ago, turning out deeply derivative sets that could have been titled Influences. The band channels its heroes so convincingly, you start to wonder if you’re listening to a collection of original outtakes.

“Between the Lines” could have been left off Nirvana’s Nevermind. The hook-heavy “Huckleberry Crumble” sounds like a warmup for Aerosmith’s Get Your Wings. “Peacoat” is an Alice in Chains-y grinder about addiction on the road. Frontman Scott Weiland goes full-on Bowie in “First Kiss on Mars,” overdubbing lines about “super magic robots” and a “bipolar disco.”

By all rights, heroin and the Pasadena police should have stopped these guys years ago. Or maybe I should have done it myself.

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