Sunday, May 1, 2011

May 1: Stone Temple Pilots, "Interstate Love Song"

Artist: Stone Temple Pilots
Song: "Interstate Love Song"
Album: Purple
Year: 1994

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

One of the more frustrating things one can encounter as a band is when a mis-labeling or a similarity to other artists overshadows the actual achievements or sound of the band in question.  This makes very little sense, as when any sound "breaks," there are always a long list of band trying to achieve that sound, and yet in at least one case, an unintentional similarity let to outright hatred by countless people.  Though they now stand as one of the finer hard rock units of their era, the anger and judgment incurred by Stone Temple Pilots defined much of their early career, and in retrospect, none of the grief they were given was very accurate or deserved in any way.  While their debut record certainly shared a number of elements with the "grunge" movement of the time, their sound was wonderfully unique, as they brought a far larger, almost "arena rock" sound to their songs.  In fact, when one looks at the entire band, the only real similarity one can find is the slight likeness in the voice of Scott Weiland, and yet even this is a bit of a stretch when one listens closely.  Thankfully, the band did not buckle under the relentless criticism, and it was their second album, 1994's Purple, that proved how wonderfully unique the group was, and the album remains one of the finest hard rock records in history.  Filled with a number of memorable songs, one can quickly understand just why Stone Temple Pilots remain one of the defining acts of their generation within their fantastic 1994 single, "Interstate Love Song."

Within the first few seconds of the song, the unique talents and musical approach of the band become evident, as the way in which the soft, meandering acoustic guitar from Dean DeLeo gives way to the almost majestic electric riff is one of the finest moments in the bands' entire catalog.  The energy that is instantly injected into the song by this shift is able to retain its impact even after nearly twenty years, and it is also within this aspect that any comparisons to other bands become invalid.  There is an aggression and attitude within DeLeo's playing that is as "hard rock" as one could want, and in many ways, the group shows a bit of a nod toward the psychedelic movement more than any other.  The grind and growl of "Interstate Love Song" is complimented by bassist Robert DeLeo, and the dark thump that he deploys beneath the songs' surface helps it to retain a distinctive edge, and lending a slight sway to the composition.  Along with the DeLeo brothers, drummer Eric Kretz delivers one of his finest performances, and his playing is a bit more forward in the mix than one might expect, yet this works perfectly with the tone of the song.  It is the way in which his almost dry sound blends together with the other two that gives "Interstate Love Song" an almost "western" feel to it, and it was this tone that helped to silence any and all critics.

Although the musical arrangement throughout "Interstate Love Song" is one of the finest in the catalog of Stone Temple Pilots, it is the vocals of Scott Weiland that largely define the bands' sound, and he gives one of his finest performances on this song.  Though there is a growl in his voice at times, it is in the moments where he lets it soar where one can find the true power of his singing.  Easily able to work the entire vocal scale, some of the range jumps he makes during "Interstate Love Song" prove that in many ways, he had given into the music and was letting the music itself dictate the vocal patterns.  There is also a range of strong emotions that can be felt within his singing, and it is this aspect that continues to draw in listeners even after all these years.  His ability to express his feelings of frustration and a clear commentary on a lacking of honesty within a relationship is far more forward and pained than most other songs with such a theme, and one cannot help but feel the proximity he has to the words which he sings.  However, can take these words and apply them to a number of different situations, as they don't seem to exclusively speak to a love between people, and it is in this fact that one can consider far darker meanings to the lyrics.  Yet regardless of how one interprets the song, there is a power and presence within the singing of Weiland that remains one of the finest vocal moments of the decade, and it firmly established both he and his band as a group which was above trite comparisons.

The impact of "Interstate Love Song" on the general public was almost instantaneous, as within a few days of its release, it topped the Billboard charts, unseeding Purple's previous single for the top spot.  The fact that they were able to gain back-to-back number one singles is yet more proof that even in the face of negative critics, the public loved the songs they were creating, and it was this song that cemented the group as one of the finest of their generation.  It was also Purple that silenced any critics that attempted to label them as "just another grunge band," as there are very few elements of that style to be found anywhere on the album, and the combination of sounds and emotions found on "Interstate Love Song" serves as perfect proof of this idea.  If one forgets "who" is playing the song, there is no question that the track as as much a hard rock anthem as has ever been recorded, and it is much the reason that almost twenty years later, the song still receives regular radio airplay.  Furthermore, if one looks at the entire decade in music, "Interstate Love Song" is one of the singles that unquestionably rises to the top as one of the most definitive of the time period, and it is largely due to the wonderfully unique combination of interlaced guitars and the truly stunning vocal work from Weiland.  Though the band had a number of hit singles both before and after this, there is no question that Stone Temple Pilots hit their artistic peak with their beautiful, yet hard-rocking 1994 single, "Interstate Love Song."

No comments: