Core (Super Deluxe Edition)

Stone Temple Pilots

Atlantic, 2017

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


One of the great rock albums of the last 25 years gets refurbished in a lavish four-CD package that is worth the price of admission…and if you disagree, you need to check your biases and give this one another spin.

There was a time where I felt the need to defend this album, but now that I’m 34, I could give a damn. Core was a fantastic record when STP released it in 1992, but it had the misfortune of coming in the middle of the second wave of the commercial alt-rock/grunge scene, and so, myopic critics desperate for a story refused to see the differences between STP and, say, Pearl Jam, Bush, Candlebox, or Nirvana. Those differences would become clearer on subsequent albums as the band’s psychedelic influences and somewhat-askew sensibilities came to the fore, though Core is a bit more straight-ahead in its approach.

But what an approach! Core is a visceral, immersive, hazy album, one that helped build the entire ‘90s alt-rock sound and whose songs warrant repeated plays. Titles aside, perhaps, “Dead And Bloated,” “Crackerman,” “Wicked Garden,” and “Piece Of Pie” simply blast out of the speakers, sounding even better now. The majestic “Plush” remains a highlight of the band’s career, “Creep” retains its acoustic mystique, and the deliberately lunkheaded, thunderously charging “Sex Type Thing” remains timely and thrilling. These guys wanted to be rock stars, which was uncool in 1992 unless you were Billy Corgan or Metallica, I suppose, and it’s why this remains such a killer debut.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The second disc is full of rarities, which is common to a reissue of this nature. Many of the debut’s songs are present in demo form and not that different from the final versions; if anything, they show a band already formed and ready for action. A handful of B-sides are here, too, none of which will surprise longtime fans. But casual fans will appreciate the two acoustic versions of “Plush,” the “swing type” version of “Sex Type Thing” that underscores the dangerous rape-culture machismo of the lyrics, and a dark (near-Gothic) song with some good vocal harmonies called “Only Dying.” The track, saved from the Mighty Joe Young demo (the band’s original name), was meant for the soundtrack of The Crow but was pulled after Brandon Lee’s death; “Big Empty” took its place.

Disc three combines the best of two 1993 live shows, one from the Castaic Lake Natural Amphitheater and one from the Reading Festival in England. As there is a lack of official, great-sounding live material from STP, these are both revelatory and very cool, as the band shows off swagger and confidence. Before the crazy drugs, before the rehab, before the indecipherable falsetto lyrics, before the drama, before the pop-song leanings, before Chester Bennington, this is who STP was. Pity they didn’t stay the course, but this collection is a snapshot of a time when a great hard rock band was truly great.

The fourth disc is shorter and captures the very good MTV Unplugged performance from 11/17/93. Four of the seven songs are highlights from the debut, mixed in with “Big Empty” (which would appear on 1994’s Purple) and a driving cover of David Bowie’s “Andy Warhol,” before closing with the “swing” version of “Sex Type Thing.” The EP is a nice bonus for fans and collectors, although there’s nothing revelatory outside of “Andy Warhol.” And again, fans may already have this material, but in remastered quality and all in one place, it’s quite a treat. Add in a photo book and DVD and you have a sweet collection (there’s also a two-disc version that omits the two live discs, which is a shame, since those are far better and necessary than three demo versions of “Plush.”

Rating: A

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