I don’t talk much about my teenage taste in music, because, well, there’s not much good to say.
It’s funny and sad to think of my musical evolution, and how my teenage years, the years that are supposed to be full of growth and exploration, instead represented a significant step back towards the mainstream.
Fifth grade was the moment I started caring about music, the moment when the world seemed to shift and my identity began to form. My friends and I all listened to the same radio station, 96X, found at 95.7 on the FM dial, which felt like a radical presence in the middle of the country, even if I’d later learn it was part of a super-conglomerate, like all stations are.
In hindsight, the 1993-1994 school year was a glorious time to come of age, sonically speaking. To finally emerge from the shadow of whatever my mom was listening to while driving carpool—usually either Broadway soundtracks or her generation’s standards, like the Beatles—into the daylight that was mid-’90s alternative rock was like emerging from a cocoon and discovering daylight anew. If only I’d known it in the years to come.
Scott Weiland, singer of Stone Temple Pilots (and Velvet Revolver) passed away suddenly this past Thursday, to the surprise of few. Like so many artists of the early-’90s grunge/alt-rock era, Weiland struggled with substance abuse, something you could hear in his vocals from an early age. If anything, the shock was that he’d made it that long, well past Cobain (1994) and Stayley (2002), among others.
It’s been interesting watching the critical reassessment of Stone Temple Pilots in just the last few days. I remember people being dismissive of my interest in seeing them at a 2002 music festival1, and my boss at a magazine in 2004 being nearly contemptuous when I expressed interest in borrowing the review copy of their greatest hits CD. People seem to have come around.
All along, my stance has been the same: They had three good songs. I’ve never gone deep, never listened to a full album2, but “Interstate Love Song,” “Plush,” and “Creep” were more than enough to justify the band’s existence. That’s far more than other beloved acts.
There are so many moments in my head with a particular soundtrack. Four Non-Blondes’ “What’s Up?” will always remind me of dead class pets, Jimmy Eat World’s “Lucky Denver Mint” summons the New York City subway, and Garbage’s “#1 Crush” inevitably leads to Metal Mario running circles in my mind.
I can’t say the same of anything by Weiland or Stone Temple Pilots. My feelings are more abstract, more amorphous, and not particularly deep, either. But regardless, his death feels like yet another nail in the coffin of a certain era, one that was toxic for its stars in a way no other has been.
Somehow, Keith Richards still lives, but grunge is long dead.