Track of the Day: 'Plush'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

There was a lot of debate in the comments section of Spencer’s piece covering the death of Scott Weiland, a debate that mostly centered on whether Weiland’s Stone Temple Pilots were more poseurs or pathfinders:

I’m sorry the dude died, especially if he had kids or whatever, but let’s not pretend he was any sort of legit artist. The guy was the the most successful poseur of the 1990s. Whatever sound and style was the thing at the time is what he and his bands were. He was Jared Leto without the acting.

A less harsh critic of Stone Temple Pearl Jam is a reader who goes by GillianAndersonCooper, using the avatar below:

Well, for the band’s first big single, “Plush,” Weiland was doing an Eddie Vedder impression. There is no other way to describe it. Sure, he wasn’t the only one, but his was the most egregious. He even appropriated all of the tics and mannerisms for the video.

The band did subsequently evolve in another direction though.

Another agrees:

Being a Seattle native, I was not a fan when STP first broke. I considered them to be just another Seattle Sound wannabe band. But they quickly crafted their own sound. Fast forward two years to 1994: The STP show on July 30th at the Gorge Amphitheater is still one of my favorite concerts of all time.

Another reader contends that “STP was never grunge. I remember Weiland criticizing grunge artists as a bunch of shoe gazers.” Another responds with a question:

But what is grunge?

I would characterize it as a period of early ‘90s alternative rock that took inspiration from ‘70s hard rock and usually featured sludgy guitar sounds and riffs and raspy vocals. Stone Temple Pilots definitely fit the description, at the very least with Core and Purple.

I’ve pretty much heard the case for how every band referred to as grunge wasn't really grunge. “Alice in Chains weren’t grunge; they were just heavy metal.” “Hole weren’t grunge; they were punk.” And so on. Bands like STP, Pearl Jam, and Silverchair did move away from that sound to varying degrees, but I would say early STP were pretty definitive of grunge, even a little generic.

Here’s one more reader defending the band’s evolution:

I’m genuinely curious as to what “thing at the time” they were mimicking on the Tiny Music album. Something Britpop-ish, perhaps? I can’t think of an applicable American trend at the time, offhand. And regarding Velvet Revolver [which Weiland was a part of], they seemed like a classic rock throwback than a group jumping on a current bandwagon.

I’m not suggesting that Weiland was some sort of avant-garde visionary, but aside from very early STP, I think that he and his bandmates deserve just a bit more credit for finding their own sound.

Lastly, a throwback appreciation from a pair of early ‘90s music critics: