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“Newton’s First Law of Motion Would Seem to Suggest That Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts Would Be Good”

Once upon a time there was a town called LA. In the 1980s, this town was packed to the brim with weirdos — guys who would wear lipstick, groups of black dudes who would eat magic mushrooms and spearhead this new style called ska-punk, and, generally, a problematic, even inconceivable sense of freedom and expession. This expression flowed out in the form of rock and roll unscrupulously, evident in things like Dave Navarro’s apparent weakness for leather and Perry Farrell’s significant proclivity for cross-dressing. 

I’m saying all this to make a point that the Stone Temple Pilots are typically divorced from this “freaks” zeitgeist and pigeonholed as being part of the mainstream, or the “industry,” since they wrote songs that were popular and they were employed by a corporate record label, or a subsidiary thereof. And I think this is an erroneous categorization of them.

Regardless, when you think of STP, I’m sure you think of “Plush,” their most popular song, a song that peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 [1] and earned the band an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist. So, I am attempting to prove that the Stone Temple Pilots wrote original music that was exciting and vital, and evaded the territory of stuffy or antiquated commercial detritus (or Pearl Jam ripoff), which is generally the typical spiel on these guys. In order to do this, it would seem to be necessary to handle “Plush.”

And the primary event or impression I associate with this song, at least right now, is seeing this guy CRUSH the song at karaoke last year — he was this wiry, long-haired, dark-skinned dude who looked like Chris Cornell and sang like, I dunno, Mark Arm, and put on probably my favorite karaoke performance I’ve ever witnessed in my life [2]. I have this other memory of driving back up to South Bend, Indiana from Terre Haute, putting on 97.7 in my rented car and having an entirely religious experience taking in simply the SOUND of this song and those seminal, ubiquitous four chords (or I think it’s three chords with the first one repeated, technically). Of course, much of the credit for this should go to brilliant rock producer Brendan O’Brien — the Tiger Woods of rock producers, the man responsible for transforming Pearl Jam from ostentatious arena rockers with Bon Jovi drums to the best band on the planet. 

I could go on and on — and honestly I hate “Creep” and Core is probably my fourth-favorite STP album… one particular spiel I have is how in “Big Empty” Scott Weiland plops the word “conversation” into the chorus like a brilliant game of word Tetris — that four-syllable term fits with exact perfection into that particular rhythmic phrase of the song. In general, I think, Weiland had a knack for writing lyrics that were infectious and also hypnotic, and what’s more, he was part of the perverted ’90s which certainly in retrospect in today’s sterile, fumigated, BMV world of rock, is refreshing to look back on. He would ask, of a teenage girl who’s deserted him, “What would you do if I followed you?”

Hopefully what you’re sensing from my diatribes here is that Stone Temple Pilots’ music, when it was at its best, was like a living, breathing entity — definitely not the deadened, corporate shmear it’s often accused of being. It’s like, gee, ’90s critics, if you think STP is sterile you’ll love Imagine Dragons and Hozier. 

The question is, then, what the driving force was behind the satisfying aspects of the music. Typically, phenomenologically, a lot of credit should go to the lead singer, if for no other reason than a simple a posteriori examination of the evidence that would ascertain as much. Alice in Chains have been nowhere near as good since the departure of Layne Staley. Sublime has been essentially nothing since Brad Nowell flew the coop, with the exception of a couple cutesy, mildly entertaining Long Beach Dub All Stars songs. Actually, the guys from STP did form Talk Show without Scott Weiland, I believe when the singer was locked up for possession of heroin, and one good song came of it, that I remember, “Peeling an Orange,” with the rest of that album being I think pretty flaccid and forgettable. The STP project with Chester Bennington didn’t seem to unearth anything too earth-shattering. 

Well, 12 Bar Blues and Velvet Revolver were disasters, as everybody knows. But something had to be feeding into that zeal and luminosity of the first four STP albums and the rest of the band — the DeLeo brothers on guitar and bass and drummer Eric Kretz — weren’t exactly busting down the doors to start their own band or paint a Talk Show tapestries across the skies of stardom. This tells me that they were waiting for their true catalyst, Scott Weiland, to grab the reins again and reinstate their true musical direction. 

In a sense, too, they did this with the self-titled Stone Temple Pilots album of 2010, which a lot of people probably forget about. In truth, that opener on this LP “Between the Lines” is pretty rad, and has great lyrics: “I love it when we talk about love / I love it when we talk about love / You always were my favorite drug / Even when we used to take drugs”. It’s a great love song and a great song about getting clean and best of all it’s got that playful, psychedelic sort of quality that the most important rock music of the 1990s seemed to have — like it was off-the-cuff and not contrived and also yes not “corporate” or “mainstream-pandering.”

Then, a couple of things objectively happened. One, Scott Weiland left Stone Temple Pilots sometime between 2010 and 2015 and formed a band called Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts. Two, this band was really fu**ing loud. Three, this band wrote an album called Blaster. Four, on the cover of Blaster sat would looked like about a six-foot-high boom box. Five, the guys had a lot of fun doing this and recording this music. 

Ok, that last part’s subjective, not objective. But it’s my honest assessment, nonetheless, from the bottom of my half-computerized blogospheric heart. What’s more, if we may stoop further into the rat hole that is the whole “my opinion” realm, there’s some really good songs on this album. For instance, there’s the first song, “Modzilla.” It’s fun, got spirited vocals and this big, hearty and catchy chorus — it’s everything grunge was at its best and everything alternative rock was at its best all through the ’90s. Another feather in its cap would seem to be the indie label on which it was released, Scott Weiland’s own Softdrive, with majors at this time in less of a pecuniary position to take chances on music that actually fostered an edge of some sort. The second song “Way She Moves” is again pretty much great, by all my standards at least (I’m sort of afraid of looking back at Consequence of Sound’s review of Blaster to see what they didn’t like about it, if that’s even possible, because I’m already experiencing an acute, overwhelming level of hatred for humanity right now), with a sort of Foo Fighters, catchy type thing going on in the chorus and even some sharp phrasing unorthodoxies wedged into the verses [3]. “White Lightning” has some of the thickest sound I’ve ever heard to wax, shades of “Down,” the bludgeoning, thunderous opener on Stone Temple Pilots’ 1999 album No. 4 [4]. And some people like Blaster and some don’t. But it’s the product of an individual, as I’ve tried to establish above, who adhered strongly to rock and roll and felt it deep in his blood, as a result tending to typically churn out music more personal and meaningful than the typical corporate ripoff or copycat stereotype that’s typically bandied about and truthfully could absolutely be nothing but a false creation on the part of people jealous of those making memorable music that people would be listening to decades down the road. 

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[1] Interestingly, while maybe not misleading, this situation is certainly funny seeing as all of their most popular singles, including “Plush,” made their commercial peak in December 2015, which you’ll kindly remember was the month of Scott Weiland’s death. What’s that called when you basically sh** on someone their whole life and then when they die act like they were the savior of humanity? 

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[2] Granted, I hate karaoke and try to avoid it at all times at all costs, but we all know that’s impossible. 

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[3] I don’t expect anybody to know that these are and really they’re pretty much obsolete in today’s world of rock and roll but it’s when the songwriter constructs a part of the song on a number other than four and exponents of four — a section of a song, or “phrasing,” containing a number of measures the number itself of which is unusual and therefore edifying in that way. 

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[4] And yes this is also Brendan O’Brien’s handiwork, as you might have guessed. 

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