“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel… just steal the hubcaps.” – Michael P. Naughton
From the moment you “Press Play” literally, you are a passenger in a different car on this new highway of STP’s career. The grunge of Core and Purple is supplanted with 60s Lennon/Beatles influences. Some critics suggest STP lifted from Redd Kross whom they toured with. Six of one/half dozen of the other as they say. It is still great music none-the-less and the commercial strength and versatile STP formula of songwriting is most evident of Tiny Music. They are a veritable chameleon.
LED ZEPPELIN NOT GUILTY… NEITHER IS STP
STP like many great musicians and artists, borrow and lift and re purpose. It is the nature of the songwriting beast and the Beatles were guilty of it too. This review is written at a time of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven trial concluding in a “Not Guilty” verdict. Cleared of plagiarism once and for all. It is also the 20 year anniversary of Tiny Music.
But lets travel back in time to 1996 when “Tiny Music from the Vatican Shop” hit the stores (yes, there were still record stores like Tower Records on Sunset to sell it).
WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN 1996 WHEN STP RELEASED “TINY MUSIC”
If you went to the movies, you would’ve seen Jerry Maquire (although I did not, I got sick of “Show me the Money”). If you liked comedies you would’ve seen Jim Carrey as “The Cable Guy,” or maybe “Striptease” (I read the book/skipped the movie). “Swingers”… Again tired of everybody thinking they were “so money.” Dusk Till Dawn. You didn’t have a Pentium II yet in your computer. Palm Pilots, yeah, the thing with the pen, were the early Smartphones. Pro Tools, which would revolutionize home recording for musicians, was still in early development (Pro Tools finally reached 24-bit, 48 tracks in ’97).
More to the point, music in ’96 was changing. “All Eyez” were on Tupac (California Love/I Ain’t Mad at Cha were damn good) along with Snoop’s Doggfather and you probably listened to both — Maybe Beck’s innovative Odelay. Cake was “Going the Distance.” — I tuned into DJ Shadow’s “Entroducing” and Tricky myself. Whatever you listened to, music was turning the corner once again in our culture.
But here is where STP gets it right.
Rappers, DJs, Trip Hop, rock, namely STP were all reaching backwards to the old masters and creating and updating new styles of music. All of these artists were experimenting with new blends, beats and textures.
Tiny Music’s pacing is well thought out, with Brendan O’Brien once again at the helm producing. The first three cuts, like “Purple,” is classic driven rock and roll.
Lyrically and vocally Weiland reached back to Lennon and Bowie (Rock and Rock Suicide/Bowie, Pop Suicide/STP). He said they “wanted to make a statement” and “deconstruct and go low-tech, get to the heart of the matter.” “Big Bang Baby” is Rolling Stones “Jumping Jack Flash.”
“Does anybody know how the story really goes, or do we all just hum along…”
Weiland also felt it was a dark record. You still have consistent themes of addiction. “Lady Picture Show” is commercial on the surface, but deals with a dark subject.
You will notice a different tone on Dean DeLeo’s guitar. According to the Below Empty blog, DeLeo is quoted as saying, ‘”Tiny Music… is a ’57 Les Paul TV Special that I played through a ’66 Marshall 18-watt 2×10 combo. That amp loves P-90’s. I used that combination on “Big Bang Baby.”‘
Kretz’s distinctive snare on “Tumble in the Rough” will also catch your ear.
“And So I Know,” is where the detour begins. This song is reminiscent of Little Anthony and the Imperials, “Goin’ Out of My Head”.
Robert DeLeo, contributes two excellent instrumentals and shows deep roots on: “Press Play” and “Daisy.”
Zeppelinesque “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart” and “Adhesive” just nail it, but STP makes it their own. They added a soulful Miles Davis style solo on “Adhesive,” foregoing a traditional guitar solo. However on “Trippin’ on a Hole,” we do hear DeLeo uniquely channel Jeff Beck.
“Art School Girl” is tongue and cheek, and a throwback to Nirvana. Again, this is what makes STP great. They can mimic and make it their own.
The ride ends with “Seven Caged Tigers,” and STP has proven that Tiny Music is Big Music and relevant music even now, 20 years later.