12-Bar Blues

Scott Weiland

Atlantic, 1998


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Don't be fooled by the title. This disc has nothing at all to do with blues. It's basically a Stone Temple Pilots album without the rock crunch of the other three members.

In 1998, those other three went on to form the relatively straight Talk Show, releasing one eponymous and fairly decent album. Weiland continued to further push his musical boundaries, crossing the line of psychedelic glam he began on Tiny Music...Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop, and the results are interesting, alternative but mostly style over substance.

These 12 gracious melodies (get it?) don't fit into any specific style, mainly because Weiland doesn't believe in writing a normal song. Each song has layers of instruments and sound effects, odd timing, meaningless lyrics (generally) and a feel of a hobby more than an artistic statement. Which doesn't make it bad by any means, since Weiland is a good singer and knows how to write a pop hook surrounded by psychedelic glam. I half expected David Bowie to pop up.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

If all this sounds confusing, that's because this record defies expectations. “About Nothing” veers between three distinct sounds that don't match at all, sounding like a jam from Tiny Music gone off into the ether. “Desperation #5” is a hazy swirl of psychedelic glam from Bowie-era Lodger, while “Cool Kiss” sounds like STP's Purple mixed with Nine Inch Nails.

“Where's the Man” is a beautiful, reverb-laden rock ballad, the best song here. “The Date” sounds like updated Velvet Underground but has that definite STP sound, the swirl that Weiland brings to every song he sings. Perhaps the most fun moment is the stomping “Jimmy Was A Stimulator,” although the lyrics are typical indecipherable Weiland stuff (“Jimmy was a regulator / He could regulate a regulator / She's so fine and I'm killing myself with it”). The Tom Waits-inspired “Lady, Your Roof Brings Me Down” also is a highlight.

STP fans picked up this disc, but most others ignored it, which is kind of a shame. Granted, the lyrics are sometimes stupid, and the sudden shift in styles -- often within a single song -- make it hard to really get into this album. But if there was such a thing as progressive glam-rock, Weiland would be heir to Bowie's late-70s throne, and on “Where's the Man” and “Mockingbird Girl” especially, he proves that he was one of the more interesting songwriters of the 90s.

All this doesn't make 12-Bar Blues an easy album to love, yet for those who want a change of pace from normal alternative or who remain fixated on the Bowie-Velvet Underground-Mott the Hoople glam-rock sound, this does the trick just fine. Still, one wishes the lyrics matched the creativity of the music.

Rating: B-

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