I was listening to Tool radio, and even though the songs played mainly came from bands like (besides Tool) Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle (obviously), and Deftones, occasionally Alice in Chains, and once, a Stone Temple Pilots song (possibly a error; long story short, I created two Tool stations at the same time on my Blackberry and I think it got confused), popped up. I began to draw connections between the two groups. Both had an MTV Unplugged album. Both are from Seattle. Both have drug-plagued lead singers. OK so do a lot of other bands. What struck me about these two in particular was that neither of them kick nearly as much ass as Nirvana or Pearl Jam but they lingered on for years despite bad reviews and scores of knock-offs. I sound like I hate them, but I used to love STP and admired AIC as well, even though I didn't buy as many of AIC's albums back in the day when I bought CDs.
The STP song that came up was Interstate Love Song, my least favorite hit STP song. Like I said, I think (and hope) Pandora made a mistake and Interstate Love Song was not in the genome project, but needless to say, it did not fit in with the intensity of Tool and NIN, or even AIC. I thought about an old Saturday Night Live skit, when David Spade did Weekend Update. He was talking about going to see a STP show and quipped, "I liked them the first time when they were called Pearl Jam." When I first saw this, at age twelve or thirteen, I was deeply offended. I loved STP, and they sounded nothing like Pearl Jam, I thought. Regardless, many years later, I see Spade's point, and I find it hard to believe that STP remained successful for as long as they did. The way I look at them now, it's as if they were always trying to sound unique but fell just short every time. I stopped following them after Tiny Music, which is probably their most original album. I kinda still like some tracks from Core and Purple, too, but I would much rather hear anything by Alice in Chains.
I was hurt but also amused, when I read a short but scathing preview of an AIC show at the TLA in Philly Weekly or City Paper a few months ago. The writer basically tore them a new one, essentially saying they were talentless musicians and couldn't write lyrics worth shit either. I can't say I disagree, but when I heard "Grind" on Pandora, I was very happy. I skipped "Rooster," because I've heard it ten million goddamn times, and "Dirt," because it was boring me, but there's nothing like a good, incoherent AIC romp once in a while. Like STP, I think they were successful because they made people think they were doing something new, but in retrospect, tragically, they were really just taking themselves way too seriously. Layne Staley with his sunglasses and Scott Weiland with his purple hair at the Unplugged recordings are all I can picture, both trying to look mysterious and troubled, which they were but not in the good, artistic way.
I think next to Tool and Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains don't stand a chance when it comes to originality, meaning, feeling, and sound. It's hard to say, however, which I would prefer at the gym, where I may not be in the mood to wait for a deep Tool track to unfold, or to let Nine Inch Nails take my soul hostage. I might rather hear a catchy STP tune or a trusty old AIC riff, when working out. At the end of the day, though, AIC wins the duel because I believe if I were to shuffle all of both bands' songs, there's a better chance of AIC doing me right. They don't try as hard as STP to sound cool, they just are--most of the time.