Why Stone Temple Pilots’ ‘Tiny Music … ‘ Is An Unsung ’90s Classic

Why Stone Temple Pilots’ ‘Tiny Music … ‘ Is An Unsung ’90s Classic

In 2015, GQ printed a tribute to Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland entitled “Rock’s Greatest Poseur.” The headline was a winking reference to STP’s ignoble standing within the Nineteen Nineties as the final word grunge rip-off, a band destined to be in contrast unfavorably to Pearl Jam and Nirvana, apparently, endlessly.

However “poseur” had initially been utilized to STP for causes that went deeper than allegations of mere sonic hackery. For music writers within the different period, Weiland and his bandmates have been seen as emotional charlatans, a gaggle of wanton opportunists who, within the parlance of rock’s most cred-conscious period, “didn’t actually imply it.”

“They continue to be a nationwide joke for his or her shameless impersonations of Pearl Jam and Nir­vana,” venerable rock critic Greil Marcus observed in 1994. “With Kurt Cobain lifeless, to listen to his distress and his intelligence remodeled so blithely into another person’s kitsch commodity is sickening.”

I’m leaving out an important little bit of context for the GQ article: It was printed proper after Scott Weiland died. Simply the night time earlier than, he was discovered laying in a fetal place within a tour bus parked close to the Mall Of America outdoors of Minneapolis. He was 48 years outdated.

On the time of his dying, Weiland’s life had all however fallen aside. Two years prior, he was fired from Stone Temple Pilots, which occurred after he had already alienated his former bandmates in his different famous person rock group, Velvet Revolver. He was estranged from his two kids, almost broke, and reeling from each of his dad and mom having been not too long ago identified with most cancers. Professionally, he was embarrassed by a torpid, seemingly drugged-out performance of the STP hit “Vasoline” by his present band The Wildabouts that went viral.

The native county Medical Examiner’s Workplace later dominated that Weiland died of mixed-drug toxicity from cocaine, ethanol, and a type of MDA. He additionally had heart problems, bronchial asthma, atherosclerosis, and multiple-substance dependence, plus a medicine-cabinet’s price of prescriptions in his system: Lunesta, Klonopin, Viagra, Dalmane, Buprenex, and Geodon. It was the final cease on a decades-long journey into the abyss that started across the time that he was accused of taking another person’s genuine expression of ache and turning right into a “kitsch commodity.”

The GQ article tried to show the which means of “poseur” on its head, praising Weiland for his capability to maneuver between many various types of music. However the sting of that phrase however remained. The man dies alone on a tour bus, presumably the worst and loneliest dying conceivable for a musician, and he nonetheless will get referred to as a poseur? It hardly appeared honest, particularly given how “poseur” is now seen as a time period greatest left behind in overly judgmental ’90s music tradition. On the very least, his harshest critics ought to have conceded that Scott Weiland was, the truth is, not faking his distress in any case.

I’ll go one step additional: The concept that Stone Temple Pilots is worthy solely of backhanded reward — they have been good at being phony! — is pure bull. Their first 4 albums have greater than stood up as a number of the most tuneful and compulsively playable rock music of the ’90s. That features what I might argue is their very best LP, Tiny Music … Songs From The Vatican Reward Store, which turns 25 this week.

Let me level out one thing else that must be apparent by now: Stone Temple Pilots don’t truly sound all that very like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, or some other grunge band. It’s true that each one of those teams drew from the identical effectively of ’70s arena-rock influences, however STP had a definite spin on this supply materials that diverged considerably from their friends, particularly by the point of Tiny Music, their third album. Looking back, it appears clear that the “rip-off” libel stemmed virtually fully from the video for “Plush,” from their 1992 debut Core, by which Weiland’s contorts his good-looking cheekbones to look further Vedder-like. (Maybe not coincidentally, it was directed by Josh Taft, who additionally helmed the primary two Pearl Jam movies, “Alive” and “Evenflow.”)

Musically, the tune’s lumbering mid-tempo energy balladry and Weiland’s growly yarl evoke Ten, although that may have been unintentional. (“Plush” was written in 1989, two years earlier than the discharge of Pearl Jam’s debut.) However anybody truly listening to STP after “Plush” — versus repeating lazy music-critic groupthink — might hear how rapidly they moved on from their greatest hit on subsequent albums like 1994’s Purple and Tiny Music.

Whereas many platinum-selling alt-rock acts reacted to fame by defensively retreating to the sanctity of “credible” punk and indie influences and signifiers, STP’s music solely bought grander and catchier. By the point they made Tiny Music, they have been a melodic power-pop band in hard-rock clothes, skillfully aping glitter-era Bowie, The Beatles’ psychedelic interval, and the tacky ’70s soft-rock acts (like The Carpenters and John Denver) that Weiland had cherished since childhood.

In fact, Stone Temple Pilots have been hardly a one-man band within the ’90s. The band’s musical engine was Dean and Robert DeLeo, the guitar-and-bass brother duo from New Jersey who grew up enjoying Rush and King Crimson covers earlier than assembly Scott Weiland within the late ’80s.

I interviewed the DeLeo brothers in 2016, only a few months after Weiland died. Their feelings have been nonetheless uncooked and complex; whereas they may very well be complimentary when talking about their former singer, they have been additionally nonetheless indignant about how he had repeatedly derailed their band, beginning together with his arrest for purchasing crack cocaine in 1995.

“I spent half my life simply filled with false hope, with each intention to attempt to assist him and attempt to get him collectively, and it led to what we’re speaking about proper now,” Dean advised me, in a tone that was each rueful and resentful. “Once I was a child, the time period ‘rock star’ was intriguing to me, it meant one thing. As I bought older and I used to be in enterprise with any person who abused that time period, I discovered it an increasing number of repulsive, as a result of I don’t know some other line of labor the place you can simply merely present up late, or not present up in any respect, or present up actually out of it, and it’s glorified. I feel it sucks. It sucked for me, it sucked for Robert and Eric.”

At the moment, STP was doing a cattle name for a brand new lead singer. After firing Weiland in 2013 — the ultimate straw was when he tried to ebook a best hits tour with out the remainder of the band — they labored briefly with Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, releasing an EP, Excessive Rise, that yr. (Simply over a yr after I spoke with the DeLeos, Bennington took his personal life.) However I used to be largely fascinated with speaking to them about Tiny Music, which I think about to be one of many nice alt-rock albums from the style’s “dying throes” interval.

In 1996, there was a collection of big-ticket releases from bands who solely two or three years earlier have been on high of the rock world. Together with Tiny Music there was Pearl Jam’s No Code, R.E.M.’s New Adventures In Hello-Fi, Soundgarden’s Down On The Upside, Counting Crows’ Recovering The Satellites, and Weezer’s Pinkerton. Whereas all of those albums did comparatively effectively — in some instances spinning off hit singles and promoting thousands and thousands — they have been perceived as industrial letdowns within the midst of a music scene on the verge of being taken over by nu-metal and teenage pop acts. These bands, in different phrases, already appeared outdated, mere leftovers from a interval that already appeared distant.

That letdown feeling is definitely embedded within the albums themselves. In every case, the bands sound exhausted and defeated, although as a result of they leaned into that feeling these information have form of “final stand” energy to them. (For the report, I really like every certainly one of them.) However Tiny Music is the wittiest and most enjoyable album out of this bunch.

With the trade reckoning of Napster nonetheless a number of years away, STP was afforded the total luxurious rock-star remedy whereas making Tiny Music, decamping to an enormous ranch home located on 100 acres in California’s Santa Ynez Valley. (“We have been getting again to our roots,” Robert DeLeo famous sardonically.) They have been impressed by expansive ’70s classic-rock albums famously recorded inside mansions, like Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Highway. And you may hear that area on the album, notably on rockers just like the Zeppelinesque “Trippin’ On A Gap In A Paper Coronary heart” and the blissfully glammy “Huge Bang Child,” which was recorded on the entrance garden of the property whereas horses stared off within the distance. (“There was a horse vibe” to the album, Dean DeLeo recalled.)

Whereas the DeLeos flexed their musical muscle mass on Tiny Music, even delving credibly into psych-tinged jazz rock on “And So I Know,” Weiland put his musical stamp on the report by contributing the primal two-chord riff to “Tumble In The Tough,” taking advantage of his close to non-existent guitar chops.

It’s as a lyricist and vocalist, nevertheless, that he made his most vital mark. On Tiny Music, Weiland usually sticks to evocative however largely nonsensical rock-dude patter. (“I’m lookin’ for a brand new stimulation / fairly bored of these inflatable ties.”) However the strains that handle to chop hardest by way of the wall of heavy-riffing guitars, insistently melodic baselines, and Eric Kretz’s Bonham-esque drums are likely to touch upon alt-rock’s quickly fading industrial and significant fortunes: “I’m lookin’ for a brand new rock sensation” (from “Tumble In The Tough”); “Promote your soul and signal an autograph” (“Huge Bang Child”); “However I’m not lifeless and I’m not on the market” (“Trippin’ On A Gap In A Paper Coronary heart”); “Simply since you’re so cliched / it don’t imply you received’t receives a commission” (“Trip The Cliché”).

Probably the most uncomfortable pay attention on this regard is the dreamy ballad “Adhesive,” by which Weiland muses about his personal impending irrelevance with indifferent cynicism over crunchy, slow-motion energy chords: “Promote extra information if I’m lifeless / Purple flowers as soon as once more / Hope it’s sooner hope it’s close to company information’ fiscal yr.”

These strains are as scathing in regards to the failed promise of “different” tradition marketed and funded by mainstream report firms as something on In Utero. However the metatextual qualities of Tiny Music — it’s a late-stage ’90s alt-rock report that feedback on late-stage ’90s alt-rock — are simple to miss given how, effectively, plush this report sounds. It was STP’s curse to make sensible rock music that sounded dumb — in the very best sense — which supposedly sensible critics too usually took at face worth. Wanting again, it makes you marvel who the precise poseurs have been in any case.

Stone Temple Pilots is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an impartial subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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