KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Scott Weiland, the singer and lyricist of the '90s rock band Stone Temple Pilots was found dead yesterday. He was 48. Music critic Tom Moon says Weiland's contribution is as a smart popularizer whose songs brought a touch of grunge menace to mainstream rock.
(SOUNDBITE OF STONE TEMPLE PILOTS SONG, "SEX TYPE THING")
TOM MOON, BYLINE: At first, it was easy to dismiss Scott Weiland and his band, Stone Temple Pilots.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEX TYPE THING")
STONE TEMPLE PILOTS: (Singing) I am, I am, I am - I said I want to get next to you. I said I'm going to get close to you. You wouldn't want me have to hurt you, too, hurt you, too.
MOON: That song and much of the band's 1992 debut drew sneers from critics. It was grunge-light. But with the second Stone Temple Pilots album, Weiland concocted something more compelling - songs that had the thick roar of grunge but were built on spring-loaded, Aerosmith-style guitar riffs and relentlessly sticky refrains.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INTERSTATE LOVE SONG")
STONE TEMPLE PILOTS: (Singing) Breathing is the hardest thing to do with all I've said and all that's dead for you. You lied. Goodbye.
MOON: It was music made for arenas, not the alternative rock art-house, and Weiland sold it. He brought all his doubts and demons in to his performances. In some ways, he was the classic tortured front man, one minute seeking answers to life's questions, the next looking desperately for an escape.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BIG EMPTY")
STONE TEMPLE PILOTS: (Singing) Too much walking - shoes worn thin. Too much tripping, and my soul's worn thin. Time to catch a ride. It leaves today. Her name is what it means. Too much walking - shoes worn thin. Time to take her home. Her dizzy head is conscience-laden. Time to take a ride...
MOON: After leaving Stone Temple Pilots, Weiland joined the supergroup Velvet Revolver, which featured members of Guns And Roses. Even here, at a time in his life when his drug use and court appearances made him unreliable, Weiland still showed a knack for the memorable song.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SLITHER")
VELVET REVOLVER: (Singing) Yeah, here comes the water. It comes to wash away the sins of you and I. This time you'll see.
MOON: Scott Weiland wasn't a great singer. He sometimes used a megaphone in concert. He won't be remembered as any kind of trailblazer, either, but he had great commercial instincts. In the highly polarized '90s, when it was not always cool to go big, he made rock that sounded like it belonged on the radio.
(SOUNDBITE OF VELVET REVOLVER SONG, "SLITHER")
MCEVERS: That was Tom Moon remembering musician Scott Weiland. The singer died yesterday at the age of 48. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.