For the first time since its 1998 inception, the hard-rocking, shit-talking Family Values Tour isn't an entirely ironic venture. Sure, the lineup includes adventurously coiffed lunkheads Static-X and hip-hop-admiring lunkheads Linkin Park. But the tour's two biggest names--nü-metal pilgrims Staind and grunge survivors Stone Temple Pilots--reflect hard rock's increasingly fractured image at a time when the form is enjoying its largest commercial returns in years. (Meaning? Marriage is big, but divorce is bigger.)
STP practically crystallizes the turmoil of the U.S. family on its latest disc, the frustrating Shangri-La Dee Da. Not that it has anything to do with singer Scott Weiland's lyrics--here, those mostly revolve around soggy post-rehab tests of faith and a couple of stale semi-glam genre workouts that may or may not be pointed toward Courtney Love ("Too Cool Queenie," "Hollywood Bitch"). The drama is in the group's continued self-denial, for there's a terrific pop band somewhere within Stone Temple Pilots that is at odds with its muscle-bound reality; we see it every time the band has a hit, which is more often than anyone would've thought in 1992. Yet as usual, on Shangri-La the band buries the requisite three or four Beatles/Bowie homages (including the single "Days of the Week," which is as good as anything it's done) under a deluge of half-baked riff-rock that exposes them as the fakes they've always been. And for what? Street cred? Fred Durst's props?
That must be it, because Massachusetts drama kings Staind are guilty of the same stylistic infidelity. The two albums to these guys' names--1999's Dysfunction and May's Break the Cycle--are filled to the brim with joyless, labored dirge-rock that practically chokes on its own self-seriousness. As with STP, these guys don't know what they've got sitting in the palms of their hands. And like deadbeat dads, they're holding out on some very needy dependents.