Bands rarely take risks anymore. Many times bands stick to an established formula and fear of change or reprisal from fans keeps the sounds regurgitating and prevents real growth. Then you have a band like Stone Temple Pilots, themselves riding the crest of their major 2019 comeback album, self-titled album, and a triumphant world tour that preceded and followed the release. You couldn’t blame them with all the past tumult if they played it safe and made another mostly rocking album to appease the fans. However, on their surprising unplugged album Perdida (Rhino), they did anything but play it safe.
Chilled out tracks are part of this band’s DNA. Two of their biggest hits and most enduring songs from the 1990s are ‘Creep’ and ‘Big Empty’ as evidenced by them being among the highlights of any STP show. Their MTV Unplugged performance is still one of their best and the best of that show (which needs to make a comeback soon). So it’s not out of character for them to do an entire album of these type of tracks. But these are mere slap dashed leftovers or campfire tracks.
With a wistful heart and soulful delivery, the ten songs on Perdida stand up to any album in the bands’ beloved back catalog. Beautifully written, and thoughtfully orchestrated, every song will send a chill up your spine and have you feeling all of your feelings. Gorgeous strings, mellifluous flutes, dusky saxophones, and lush backing vocals and harmonies, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking you stumbled on some lost Carpenters, Neil Young, Nick Cave, or Doobie Brothers album. Even the piano parts and deft synth work evoke the feel-good but sounding sad soundtrack to your 1970s with a burnt sienna sunset in your metaphysical rear-view mirror. All of these pieces come together to accentuate but never overtake the songs themselves.
These are really lovely, sad, and philosophical songs and yet, they still are distinctly STP tracks. Jeff Gutt owned the vocal role with the self-titled album, but here he really asserts himself as a legend in his own right with his great delivery, expert phrasing, and even more subtlety. Rob and Dean DeLeo expertly craft these subversive guitar and bass-driven jams that will just haunt you. Drummer Eric Kretz, one of rocks n roll’s great bashers, shows off his tasteful touch on these tracks with laid back style. Songs like ‘Fare Thee Well’, the title track, ‘I Didn’t Know The Time’, ‘She’s My Queen,’ my personal favorite ‘Miles Away’, and ‘Sunset’ are gonna be in the “staylist” forever.
It’s not an understatement to say that Perdida is already one of the best albums of 2020. Creating a magical album that can stand next to Led Zeppelin III, Diamonds and Rust, GNR Lies, Nebraska, American Recordings and Jar of Flies, and more; the latest chapter in Stone Temple Pilots’ storied carrier is one that straddles the emotional line between regretful sorrow and pained optimism.
9 / 10