21 Years Ago: Stone Temple Pilots’ ‘Core’ Album Released
It’s funny when you think about how far the Stone Temple Pilots have come since their debut album, ‘Core,’ which was released 21 years ago today on Sept. 29, 1992.
There have been good times, bad times and well, the current times, which, if you are a diehard STP fan, are the worst of times. No matter how you skin the cat, Stone Temple Pilots will always be Scott Weiland (vocals), Dean DeLeo (guitar), Robert DeLeo (bass, backing vocals), and Eric Kretz (drums). That was the lineup during the most important years of the band’s existence, and the aptly titled ‘Core’ is where it all began.
In terms of music historical context, ‘Core’ was released days after the one-year anniversary of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ and within the same several-year period that saw definitive alt-era albums by Pearl Jam (‘Ten’) and Jane’s Addiction‘s (‘Ritual de lo Habitual’). Needless to say, there was competition, and in the shark-filled pool of rock critics, those who smelled the blood of grunge wannabees were was more than happy to attack.
Unfortunately, when STP’s arrived, it splashed down into a bit of a Sharknado. One Rolling Stone live reviewer called lead single ‘Plush’ “embarrassingly Pearl Jam-like.” They also caught flack for turning down an opening slot with classic rock grandfathers Aerosmith (they chose to co-headline a tour with the Butthole Surfers instead). New York Times music critic Jon Pareles echoed Rolling Stone in calling them a “second-rate Pearl Jam” and went on to say they sounded at times like Nirvana imitators (at least their mid-tempo numbers). (Ironically, ‘Core’ producer Brendan O’Brien went on to produce Pearl Jam’s ‘Vs.‘ album in 1993 and many of their subsequent works.)
Despite this vortex of critical negativity, the album did really well. A string of singles — ‘Plush,’ ‘Creep,’ ‘Sex Type Thing,’ and ‘Wicked Garden’ — all cracked the Top 25, with the album hitting No. 3 on the Billboard 200. Also, notably, it scored well with the Brits, going all the way to No. 27 on the U.K. charts.
So unless fans of Pearl Jam and Nirvana on both sides of the Atlantic were just buying up everything that sounded in the least bit grungy or alternative, Stone Temple Pilots actually hit on something with ‘Core.’ They found a happy medium between metal, punk and acoustic rock, and because they knew how to write good songs, they found a mainstream radio and MTV audience. They refused to be upstaged by the likes of Aerosmith, who at the time were touring in support of their wildly popular ‘Get A Grip’ album. STP must have sensed who their audience was, and in the years ahead, their move would seem all the more astute.