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Track Review

Grunge fans could be forgiven for thinking it's 1992 again. I mean, a few months ago Pearl Jam topped the charts with Backspacer. Alice in Chains reunited and put out its first new material since 1995. Soundgarden is touring this summer for the first time since breaking up in 1997.

And then we have Stone Temple Pilots.

Even though the San Diego alt-rock band was geographically removed from grunge's Seattle epicenter, it nevertheless hitched a ride on the coattails (flannel shirttails?) of that scene—selling some 40 million albums in the process.

Success, however, came with a price for frontman Scott Weiland. Namely, his inability to steer clear of heroin, cocaine and the cops. A bad combination, to say the least. Weiland's tour-killing addiction and repeated run-ins with the law allegedly played a significant role in the band's 2003 dissolution.

Since then, Weiland joined Velvet Revolver for two albums—then left that group too. Meanwhile, STP's guitar- and bass-wielding brothers, Dean and Robert DeLeo (respectively), formed their own would-be supergroup, Army of Anyone, with Filter's lead singer, Richard Patrick.

But apparently time (and probably the prospect of more money) heals all wounds, because STP has patched things up, gotten back together and recorded its first new material since 2001's Shangri-La Dee Da.

Dean DeLeo's rhythm guitar work on the first single from that project, "Between the Lines," definitely recalls the band's catchy, crunchy hits of the 1990s. Weiland, however, sounds more like a rocky version of Bob Dylan wailing away in a Tom Petty cover band.

As for the song's lyrics, most of the goings-on here are about as clear as mud: "Penguins don't fly/Crocodile Sunday smile/Really love to fish/But don't like superficial people/ … Lovely disguise/Read between the lines/You rock the magic plane with no abbreviation," Weiland tells us. Indeed, reading between the lines is exactly what you have to do in order to glean much meaning from these seemingly incoherent ramblings.

Whenever I hear lyrics as jumbled as these, however, I usually try to give the singer the benefit of the doubt. Those lines probably mean something to whoever wrote them, even if I can't figure them out. But it turns out Weiland doesn't really know—or care—what they mean either. He just likes the way the words play nicely with each other: "Sometimes you just throw together random words that phonetically sound good with the melody," he told USA Today, "and then you get to the meat of the song in the chorus."

The meat in question is more easily chewable, if not particularly palatable. "I like it when you talk about love," Weiland sings in the chorus. "You always were my favorite drug/Even when we used to take drugs." Those few lines are about Weiland's ex-wife Mary Forsberg, according to USA Today. And given Weiland's well-publicized and longstanding battles with chemical addiction, it doesn't seem a hopeful sign for STP 2.0 that he's so wistfully recalling his drug-addled past. It's certainly not a healthy thought—for him or for his fans.

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Hit No. 1 on Billboard's rock chart.

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March 22, 2010

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Adam R. Holz

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