Review: Stone Temple Pilots unplug for terrific 'Perdida'

This cover image released by Rhino Records shows "Perdita" by the Stone Temple Pilots.

What a strange trip it’s been for fans of Stone Temple Pilots. Two decades ago, they gave us the grunge masterpiece “Plush.” Now they are offering folk songs with flute solos.

That’s not a knock, just a gentle warning. Bands evolve and the Pilots have moved so beyond their sonic beginnings that they’ve followed their muse into a completely different genre. They deserve credit — and listeners.

“Perdida” finds the band in an acoustic frame of mind. No, they’re not making stripped-down covers of their hits (they’ve done that), but 10 brand new songs using no or very little juice. There are cellos, violins, alto sax and something called a Marxophone, a fretless zither.

Acoustic songs are more delicate than electricity-fueled ones and there’s more pressure on singer Jeff Gutt, who has taken over from original frontman Scott Weiland. But these 10 songs show off the musicianship of the band and its member’s versatility, sounding organically acoustic, not reverse-engineered.

“Perdida,” Spanish for “loss,” is a melancholy album, concerned with relationship drift. “Stormy weather/Has been here for too long,” Gutt sings over a beautiful acoustic solo by guitarist Dean DeLeo. There’s lots of images of wind, sky and rain.

“Years” sounds like a track from a ’70s rom-com, “Miles Away” resembles a violin-led folk song from the Old Country, and “She’s My Queen” is a shimmering song of devotional love with a flutist doing a series of chunky riffs. “Sunburst” is a lighter-than-air, blissed-out confection, while the title track has a nice flamenco feel.

The songwriters — Gutt, DeLeo, and DeLeo’s bass-playing brother Robert — even offer the wordless “I Once Sat at Your Table.” An acoustic instrumental isn’t what many were expecting from Stone Temple Pilots. You’ll get used to it.

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