Stone Temple Pilots, "Stone Temple Pilots" (Rhino Records)
Everything from the 1990s seems to be making a comeback these days, from "The X-Files" and "Will & Grace" to the Spice Girls and velour tracksuits. So is it time for Stone Temple Pilots?
Totally, as the kids said back then.
The four-piece band once closely associated with the grunge explosion of the early 1990s with such hits as "Creep" and "Plush" has returned with a new self-titled album and a new lead singer, Jeff Gutt.
Gutt, once a contestant on "The X Factor," has big shoes to fill, namely those of original frontman Scott Weiland, who was dismissed from the band amid his drug troubles, and Weiland's replacement, Linkin Park's Chester Bennington, who did a two-year stint with the band (both are now dead).
If there are nerves, Gutt isn't showing them. The album kicks off with "Middle of Nowhere" and Gutt sings with strutting bluster, "There's a right way/And there's a wrong way/And then there's my way."
The 12-track album is a nice collection of straight-ahead hard rock songs, from the bluesy "Never Enough" to the arena rocker "Meadow." The band isn't afraid to go slower, too, and offer two outstanding ballads, "Thought She'd Be Mine" and "The Art of Letting Go."
Perhaps the most grunge-y song on the new album is "Roll Me Under," which has the power of instantly transporting you to the sound of rock when Bill Clinton was new in the White House.
Stone Temple Pilots were often dissed by critics and fans of other bands as mere imitators of Pearl Jam and Nirvana. But they proved versatile and went on to explore other sonic terrain.
So credit guitarist Dean DeLeo, his bassist brother, Robert, and drummer Eric Kretz for keeping at it. There's plenty of bad '90s recycling, but having Stone Temple Pilots banging away in your earbuds isn't one of them.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits