As I sit here listening to some of my fondest adolescent memories, I can’t help but wonder where the hell the last ten years came from. My favorite bands from the 90’s were the Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins, Lostprophets, and Nine Inch Nails. All of these bands have changed drastically since then, but only one has been for the better. Am I to blame?
Stone Temple Pilots
I understand that Scott Weiland is a berserk madman of a human being that is nearly impossible to work with. He hasn’t been able to keep a band together for more than one album since STP released the horrible Number Four album. However, from what I can tell as a big fan of their early work, Weiland has always been this way. I’m sure he’s gotten worse over the years, but he was always an egotist that had more heroine in his veins than red blood cells. That was part of what made his music so great.
No sane/sober man I know could spontaneously spit out profound things like:
So at first I loved how sensual and passionate their music was. I was never into drugs, but I always loved the art and music of other people that did them. It may be my dad raising me with The Yellow Submarine that gave me this appreciation for unbounded creativity and originality. But there’s just something about certain lyrics and compositions that I can just feel. The first two STP albums did that to me.
A couple weeks ago I was glued to my radio waiting for the premiere of the first new STP song to be released since 2001. Their new album was a welcome breath of fresh air after the torturous years of crappy Velvet Revolver music.
Everything Scott Weiland had touched since Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop was completely irrelevant and boring. Everything produced since 1997 was a bullshit desperate grab for regained fame and fortune and had no art or passion to it. None of that music is even remembered today by most people, which is a huge contrast to the timeless creativity and passion of the Purple album.
And so, once again my naïveté and cautious optimism gets the best as me as I expect a return of the Stone Temple Pilots I loved in the 90’s. And within 30 seconds of the new song being played, the channel had to be changed. It’s awful. I would rather listen to ‘Sour Girl’ three times straight (no easy feat) than endure even a single play-through of their premiere song ‘Between The Lines’. It is soulless and empty, just like most other bands on the radio today.
And so, STP remains dead, as it has been in my eyes since 1997.
From the very beginning, Smashing Pumpkins has been a very unique band. If you somehow managed to miss the creativity in their music, it slapped you dead in the face in their music videos. I regard Billy Corgan as a musical genius to this day. Sadly, being a genius isn’t all it takes to make great music.
My stepbrother got me into Siamese Dream, when he played ‘Disarm’ for me on my crappy plastic tape player I had in my room — Most of these bands were introduced to me on that crappy player now that I think of it. I loved that song instantly. It was full of intense emotion. I bought the whole album soon after. Every track on it was rewarding and I went to sleep every night listening to it for months. My favorite tracks are still ‘Mayonnaise’, ‘Geek U.S.A.’, and ‘Quiet’.
A couple years later, ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’ was released to an insane amount of praise from everyone who listened to it, including me. It was the first CD I ever bought with my own money, because I got a Sony Walkman that year. I was very happy with my new-found ability to skip tracks, because there are two or three songs on the 2-disc album that irritate the hell out of me, but the rest were all solid gold.
My dad even liked it as long as we skipped the songs with curses in them. He was fond of confiscating my Nine Inch Nails tapes whenever he heard a curse word on them. I think my brother and I bought Pretty Hate Machine 4 times between us because of that, heh.
That year, they won a bunch of Grammys and the MTV Music Awards gave them something like 6 awards, breaking the previous record. This means very little nowadays, but back then it was a big deal for an artist I liked to get mainstream credit. Their performance of ‘Tonight, Tonight’ at that same MTV show just proved beyond a doubt that they were deserving. Still, I couldn’t help but feel they were drifting out of touch a bit. The few ‘irritating tracks’ I mentioned earlier would be a direction they continued to move in, sadly for me.
Adore was an album I generally slept through. It was decent and all, but it was kind of sterile. Everything was quiet and brooding. There was no energy. I like artsy music, but I prefer it be exciting and artsy at the same time. Adore was just monochromatic.
A few more albums came and went, each usually had one song on it I liked from Corgan. The Lost Highway Soundtrack was incredible, but Corgan was less to credit for it than Trent Reznor. Machina: The Machines of God was alright, but still nothing special. The band broke up over a year after I lost interest, .
They reunited to produce Zeitgeist, which I hesitantly picked up when it came out. The CD is actually pretty good. It’s a well written album with some really catchy tracks, but it felt a bit pretentious to me. It didn’t have the warmth and passion that an unimportant, normal kid would identify with like Siamese Dream had. It didn’t draw me in with creativity as powerfully as Mellon Collie did either. It continues to live in my collection for an occasional listen, but Smashing Pumpkins has since faded away again for me.
Lostprophets were an under-rated Welsh Nu-Metal band that mixed heavy, complex guitar riffs with a talented singer and an excellent DJ/Producer. Very much like a heavy version of Incubus, Lostprophets stole my heart in 2000.
When Lostprophets first released The Fake Sound of Progress, their unique heavy and rhythmic sound had my brother and I entranced. They were an amazing band that knew how to hit a perfect range of musical archetypes. Their best were always their heavy songs like ‘Shinobi Vs. Dragon Ninja’ and ‘Five is a Four letter Word’ early on, but they were able to make moving softer songs to like ‘For Sure’. In addition: Many of the songs and artwork were inspired by video games and animé, which as you all know is a fast way into my heart.
And then they released one of my favorite albums of all time, Start Something. Every single track on this album is incredible. They had a more technical, produced sound this time around and it fit them well. They still had lots of heavy guitar and powerful lyrics, but now it was accompanied by well-thought production elements. Most people probably remember ‘Last Train Home’ from this album, as it was on MTV quite a bit at the time and got tons of radio play. They also have ‘Burn, Burn’, ‘To Hell We Ride’, and ‘Make A Move’ to round out their heavier tracks. ‘Sway’ is one of the best “chill out” tracks in my entire music library.
I saw Lostprophets in concert three times after this album was released and loved every single show. They had excellent stage presence and always knew how to rile up the crowd without making them too violent. At one point, they had everyone move to the sides as far as possible, then they instructed everyone to rush into the center of the floor as soon as they hit the first heavy riff on ‘The Fake Sound of Progress‘. Awesome.
And then… while on a date at a pizza place in Phoenix in 2006, I heard over the radio ‘Rooftops’ from their upcoming album Liberation Transmission for the first time. Afterward, the feeling wasn’t quite stark dread. I went through denial first, saying “It was okay.” and “I’m sure they have heavier tracks for the rest of the album.” A few months later, I bought the album the day it was released… and before I even got home (listened to it in the car), I was pissed. This cool unique band was now just another My Chemical Romance.
As good as the previous Lostprophets albums were, they were always way better in concert, so I decided to give them a chance when they came to town a month or two after I bought their disappointing new album. The show was sold out, but the building was filled with teenage girls where 21+ men and women once stood. There was no mosh pit. There was a little area in the middle where 14 year old boys with skin-tight jeans danced around like retards. The band itself was dressed differently too. They looked like a modernized Glam Rock band. When they spoke between songs they said generic, boring love song crap instead of the exciting anti-establishment cliches (Cliches suck, but there are degrees of suck) they went with before.
Lostprophets released The Betrayed earlier this year, and while it is much better than Liberation Transmission, it is kind of boring compared to their older stuff. It feels like they’ve watered down everything that made me like them to become the lukewarm elevator music that ‘alternative pop’ has become. I’m glad they’re making money, but I weep for the death of artistry.
Part of me blames women, but I know I shouldn’t. Nearly every woman I’ve met has had terrible taste in music, and yet Lostprophets were good at one time. They may have destroyed the cool unique thing they had to appeal more to women and teenagers, but that was their choice. I can’t blame the “mindless masses” for LP’s decision to please them.
I’m a music-lover that is ahead of his time in becoming a cranky old man. I’m aware that music is almost entirely subjective and that everyone loves the music that they first heard when they were young and hip and then repeats the same old hymn of “Damn kids these days don’t know what good music is”. I’m whining and complaining mostly because most people don’t like what I like, so the more obscure music that I like isn’t getting its proper credit. In fact, the one thing that I wish for –giving innovative its due in mainstream media– has always ended up destroying the things I love.
I am a complete hypocrite for every person I introduced The Fake Sound of Progress, Siamese Dream, and Purple to, because marketing innovative music will almost always water the future of the band down. My readers occasionally ask me what new things I’m listening to, and I like that. I will continue to tell people who want to hear different music that isn’t on the radio (or isn’t yet) what I’m up to. Because I’m a self-loathing bastard that destroys his own favorite things.
Unless that band transcends mainstream media, like Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, and several other artists are doing right now. Their creativity has only grown over their time and they are bypassing the radio stations and MTV with interactive websites and leaked media. There is hope for music as long as these people are compelled to do things this way. So if the new How to Destroy Angels tracks get released on the web for free (or cheap)… please donate and keep this method of broadcasting alive.
Oh yea, and steal all the music on the radio. Record companies are worse for music than file sharing will ever be. Save your cash for indie artists, unsigned bands, and artists that treat their fan base right.