Stone Temple Pilots' Core
Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Stone Temple Pilots were positively vilified once their 1992 debut, Core, started scaling the charts in 1993, pegged as fifth-rate Pearl Jam copyists. It is true that the worst moments of Core play like a parody of the Seattle scene -- titles like "Dead and Bloated" and "Crackerman" tell you that much, playing like really bad Alice in Chains parodies, and the entire record tends to sink into gormless post-grunge sludge. Furthermore, even if it rocks pretty hard, it's usually without much character, sounding like cut-rate grunge. To be fair, it's more that they share the same influences as their peers than being overt copycats, but it's still a little disheartening all the same. If that's all that Core was, it'd be as forgettable as Seven Mary Three, but there are the hits that propelled it up the charts, songs that have remarkably stood the test of time to be highlights of their era. "Sex Type Thing" may have a clumsy anti-rape lyric that comes across as misogynist, but it survives on its terrifically lunk-headed riff, while "Wicked Garden" is a surprisingly effective piece of revivalist acid rock. Then, there's the slow acoustic crawl of "Creep" that works as well as anything on AIC's Sap and, finally, "Plush," a majestic album rock revival more melodic and stylish than anything grunge produced outside of Nirvana itself. These four songs aren't enough to salvage a fairly pedestrian debut, but they do find STP to be nimble rock craftsmen when inspiration hits.
Rage Against the Machine's self titled album
Review by Ed Rivadavia
The first album to successfully merge the amazingly disparate sounds of rap and heavy metal, Rage Against the Machine's self-titled debut was groundbreaking enough when it was released, and many would argue that its importance and influence remains unchallenged and unsurpassed to this day. The living embodiment of this culture clash, guitar wizard Tom Morello fuses his roots in '80s metal-style shredding with an unprecedented array of six-string acrobatics and rhythmic special effects, most of which no one has even tried to imitate. And from vocalist Zack de la Rocha, the group receives the meaningful rhymes and emotionally charged delivery that white-boy metal could never hope to achieve. Still, despite the unique elements upon which they are built, songs like "Bombtrack," "Take the Power Back," and "Know Your Enemy" are immediately memorable, surprisingly straightforward slabs of hard rock. And one need not look further than the main riff of the venomous "Wake Up" -- lifted straight out of Zeppelin's "Kashmir" -- for conclusive proof of Morello's influences. Even more impressive is the group's talent for injecting slowly mounting tension into such highlights as "Settle for Nothing" and "Bullet in the Head," both of which finally explode with awesome power and rage. In contrast, the band manages to convey their message with even more urgency through stubborn repetition, as seen on "Freedom" and their signature track, "Killing in the Name." With its relentlessly rebellious mantra of, "F*ck you, I won't do what you tell me," the song is a rallying cry of frightening proportions and the unequivocal climax of their vision. A stunning debut that remains absolutely essential.