For music fans of a certain age and background, the biggest musical news of the moment is probably Stone Temple Pilots firing lead singer Scott Weiland and replacing him with Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. It seems foolhardy to me: STP has proven how much they need each other time and again. Weiland’s solo work misses the DeLeo musicality behind it, while Talk Show and Army of Anyone proved that the DeLeos require Scott’s charisma, unique delivery, and lyricism to succeed in songwriting. Still, it has happened, and the decision has led to hurt feelings, lawsuits over who can and cannot have rights to STP’s legacy, but more than anything, to one question: why would a band like STP stoop to hiring the guy from Linkin Park?
The simple answer is probably to be found in Chester’s duet with Scott on a Family Values tour compilation in the early ‘00s, but if you listen to “Out of Time”, the single STP released with their “new vocalist,” you hear someone who sounds absolutely fine in front of the band, and whose voice, while not matching Scott’s, seems capable of performing covers of his work adequately. To me, the biggest problem is in the sheer triteness of the lyrics. No new or interesting ground is covered, and to anyone who has ever heard, well, any of their songs, it sounds wrong to call this Stone Temple Pilots. No dogs smelling people, no picking songs and singing yellow nectarines, no salad day death bed motorcades. Just Linkin Park-quality lyricism. Which is why this post is not about STP, but about Linkin Park. What could a veteran band see in their singer? Let’s go back to the year 2000.
I first heard Linkin Park on a new music sampler from one Ozzfest or another. Their name was Hybrid Theory then, which was much more mature and less embarrassing, and the song, “Now I See,” did something that felt fresh. In the wake of both nu-metal and rap-rock, LP were combining both cohesively in a way that was, for me, revelatory. When that scream comes in for the first pre-chorus , my teenage ears realized it was not just another band riding the inexplicable wave started by Limp Bizkit, but something new. Chester’s voice had a power and skill that other bands of the moment simply did not have, and when the rap line came back in under his sustained notes in the chorus, it acted more like percussion, one more layer of build-up. That song eventually became “With You,” which makes me wonder if the band compulsively takes names and make them worse. Still, the elements that made Linkin Park’s first album something different were enough to spark their rise to popularity. I hopped on their street team after hearing this song once, and passed out cassette singles (of which I still have many). At the time, I’d never have expected a band that felt so new to put out about thirteen remix albums before finally releasing what would be nothing more than a tepid clone of album #1. Unfortunately, that IS what happened, and that is the band we’re seeing in music news right now. To gain a perspective on things, we need to go back to the beginning and try to remember that first time. For me, if I close my eyes and lose myself in this song, it all comes back to me immediately.