Stone Temple Pilots’ return sees the band trying to mimic the sound that made them successful. The old tricks fall flat this time around.
The three talented surviving members of Stone Temple Pilots have it rough. Their arena rock sound they introduced in the ’90’s made them stars. Their hits became the sound of new classic rock in the United States. But before they could really reap the rewards, the band imploded. They were left with an important brand. And not a lot of security.
Big brands do not disappear anymore. Big rock groups rarely disappear anymore. STP has had to deal with the death of lead singer Scott Weiland. Any possibility of a reunion was lost forever. Then, earlier this year, Weiland’s replacement Chester Bennington, passed away in tragic circumstances. STP paid their final respects for the two losses. They then confirmed their plan to continue.
Their new single Meadow has been offered to a public questioning where the band can go now. At their best, STP managed to bridge the gap between arena rock and art rock. Sure, their sound was as familiar to rock fans like as the likes of Bad Company or Pearl Jam. But the finished product was often quirky. In Weiland the group had a singer that was confident and dedicated to presenting himself as being just a tad weird. At least for a mainstream audience anxious for every new release.
Meadow sounds, unsurprisingly, like the band trying to guess what the public would want of them. It’s filled with familiar tricks found on many of the band’s most famous songs.Only that it sounds like the soundtrack to a B-movie set in the ’90’s. This is the scene where the protagonists find themselves in a club and undistinctive 90’s music is being played. It feels like the work of a modern-day producer trying to demonstrate just what the grunge sound was.
Hopefully new singer Jeff Gutt will have time to prove himself. Naturally, given Weiland and Bennington’s fame, his performance is the focal point of the recording. Gutt’s vocals sound perfect. Like someone destined for contest show glory. But, besides that, it sounds uninspired, undistinctive and reaches a Buckcherry level of cringe. It’s what rock sounds to someone who makes too much of a habit of listening to the modern rock station.
The lyrics feel thrown together. Or, worse, bought from a catalog of song lyrics titled Alternative. Whereas Weiland’s approach could often be charming, STP’s desire to approximate the sound of a modern hit makes the listening experience uncomfortable.
Stone Temple Pilots will go on to headline festivals. The STP brand will not cease to exist. Few could blame the surviving members for their insistence to keep it alive. Jeff Gutt is a talented singer making the best use of his break. However, new single Meadow is a pale imitation of the band’s own work. It serves no purpose in further evolving the band’s catalog. It’s merely to remind us that in this age, a good idea cannot die once it’s been sold enough.