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Firm Music

Perhaps your memory of the ’90s is a bit fuzzy, your recollections of flannel shirts, baby-doll dresses, and alternative rock on mainstream radio clouded by new-wave revival bands and confusion as to whether you should buy a Treo or a BlackBerry (get the Sidekick). Well, the memories of Robert and Dean DeLeo, former bassist and guitarist, respectively, of Stone Temple Pilots, and Richard Patrick, former lead singer of Filter, are sparklingly clear. So clear, in fact, that the aging alt-rock musicians may actually still be living in the Decade That Punk Broke—at least that’s what the debut from their new collaboration, the horrifically named Army of Anyone, would suggest. None of the musicians, who are joined by Ray Luzier on drums, really veer too far away from the safe grounds of their former groups on the record, which booms with cold-stored, arena-demolishing riffs, as though Patrick and crew already expect to play those same venues they once packed. “Goodbye,” the disc’s first single, is one of those songs you feel you know even if you’ve never heard it before, its chorus of “I wish you stayed here/I wish you were here” is a hair-swingin’ bit of tristesse directed at…former bandmates? the Rachel haircut? late-night airings of Studs? But Army of Anyone’s music isn’t as dated as the military-recruitment slogan its name plays on, even if the band never challenges itself to try anything new. Dean’s muscular guitars, still anchored by his brother’s driving low end, complement Patrick’s heavily reverbed belting at least as well they did Weiland’s back in the day. You just have to wonder about the value of those skills in a music scene that hasn’t quite surrendered to the inevitable ’90s revival yet. “Generation” attempts to address the disconnect Patrick and the DeLeos seem to feel with the status quo, but it only succeeds in codgerish bashing of kids today. “So helpless in this mess/The fault of all of us, yeah/Contagious complacent kiss goodbye/Generation of fear and whatever,” Patrick howls over epic guitars that sound intent on defining the song as an anthem of our time. It’s not, unfortunately, nor does it really define anything except the strain on the band’s extensors as they attempt to hang on to a passé sound. So is the album 10 years too late or a few years too early? Either way, it becomes grating after only about five tracks—like the decade that inspired it, it’s just a little too long.—Emily Zemler