I remember liking their first song, "Sex Type Thing" well enough, and it was their second single, "Plush" that got me to buy their CD. Listening to that song now, I think that some of the lyrics are almost ridiculously silly, but the music is good, and it has a good melody. Of course, this was when the comparisons to Pearl Jam came from every corner. I even remember David Spade on Saturday Night Live making a crack about how he really liked STP "the first time when they were called Pearl Jam." Not only that, but I would hear from friends and family members who thought they sounded the same as well. As for me, I was a big fan of Pearl Jam, so I didn't really see this as a huge problem. Not only that, but the more I listened, I could hear a fairly significant difference. I also thought the comparison was unfair considering that I had the CD and the comparisons pretty much ended with that particular song.
I continued to like the band with their second release, Purple. I remember buying it pretty soon after it came out, and I thought it was pretty solid all the way through. I also remember being frustrated, as I lived in the dorms at the time, and all I could hear people who had the CD booming from their rooms was "Vasoline". Don't get me wrong; it's a good song. However, I thought that there was a lot of other great stuff on there, and it wasn't until MTV started playing "Interstate Love Song" that I would hear that song being blasted as well. Apparently many people can't decide that they like a song unless it has some kind of mainstream approval first. I mean, did the song suddenly get better once it got some airplay? (Note, if you want to hear the song, it doesn't start until about 35 seconds into the video.)
Of course, the critics still raked the band over the coals, and I knew plenty of music snobs in college who would have nothing to do with them. After all, Pearl Jam was supposedly a horrible band in many of their eyes, so why would anybody want to listen to a knock-off of Pearl Jam? By this point, I thought that the comparisons were starting to get quite a bit lamer. After all, a song like "Interstate Love Song" doesn't sound a thing like Pearl Jam's style. The only similarity is that both lead singers have voices that are deep and slightly gravely, but if that makes them the same, then Jim Morrison sounds like Johnny Cash.
By the time their third CD, Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop came out, I remember reading a review in either Rolling Stone or Spin that raked them over the coals, continuing with the constant Pearl Jam comparisons. I had to wonder if the idiot writing the review had even heard a single song. How anybody can listen to that album and STILL say that is beyond me. I'm not going to post every video from that disc, but here are just a couple of them. If you think they sound like Pearl Jam by this point, please explain that one to me.
Of course, there were more albums, and more good songs, like the following:
Then they broke up, and Scott Weiland went off to sing for Velvet Revolver. While I don't think that band was as bad as some would have you believe, for the most part their music was fairly forgettable and not equal to the sum of its parts (as the band was essentially Guns 'N' Roses without Axl). Of course, there were also Weiland's issues with drug addiction, but I'm not really all that interested in that sort of a thing. I felt bad for the guy and hoped that he would be able to clean up his act since he had provided me with so much music that I liked. Beyond that, I didn't really follow all of his arrests and relapses.
I remember feeling some vindication though a few years ago while flipping through an issue of Spin. I don't know if it was some new, young-Turk reviewer, but basically it was a column about how STP had gotten an undeserved bad rap over the years. The writer also made the bold statement that "Interstate Love Song" was the best pop-rock song of the 1990s. (Perhaps he wrote "one of the best" but still...) Also, a few of their songs were included for playing on Rock Band, which obviously indicates that the makers of that game felt that their songs had the staying power of bands like The Who, Bon Jovi, Nirvana, and, well...Pearl Jam. It seems to me that the world is coming around to understanding what all of us STP fans understood all along - they're a damned good band.
As for the new album, I have to say that if you were a fan of the band, and you're a little hesitant in fear that this might be the dying gasp of a has-been band, I can assure you that it isn't. Their first single, "Between the Lines" is fine enough, but it's not one of the ones that really stood out for me. There's a great combination of hard rock and catchy pop tunes on this album, and Scott Weiland continues to mix up his vocal styles to suit the song. It's good to see these guys back again.