Thursday, October 05, 2006
Even though we're headed for war, this nation is prouder than ever before
Seeing Mother Love Bone at Bumbershoot when I was fourteen or fifteen years old was one of the formative moments in my musical education. They seemed to possess all of the swagger and volume of the hard rock bands I liked at the time, with none of the misogyny, tastelessness, vacuity, or Bacchanalian overkill of, say, Guns n’ Roses or Dokken. Hindsight I gained a few years later, of course, corrected my youthful misimpressions: Mother Love Bone didn’t sound like the second-coming of rock; they sounded like the Cult.
However, watching Mother Love Bone in that pavilion and hearing very early Soundgarden the University of Washington station, KCMU, led me to investigate other bands from the region—specifically, Mother Love Bone’s divorced parents (Green River) and newly estranged sibling (Mudhoney). And although Mother Love Bone made the first impression, Green River made the lasting one. I bought the Rehab Doll record first. And when I admitted to my buddy Dean that I preferred Rehab Doll to Guns n’ Roses, he called me a homo or something.
Green River’s Dry as a Bone EP (their best record) and Rehab Doll still hold up pretty well. After giving those records a decade-long rest, I pulled them out not too long ago and found that I liked them even more than before. A good friend loaned me the CD SubPop issued with both records (plus two unreleased tracks), and I’ve been spinning it pretty frequently. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, one of the later songs on Rehab Doll (“Porkfist”) came up on my iPod while I was running by Lake Michigan. It gave me a little lift.
Green River were the first grunge rock stars. Their name popped up frequently alongside those of contemporaries Husker Du and Sonic Youth, and they wrote the first grunge staple, “Swallow My Pride,” which both Soundgarden and the Fastbacks covered. Two guys later went on to jaw-dropping levels of fame in Pearl Jam, but everybody already knows that.
What you may not know is their first record, Come on Down (Homestead Records, 1985). I don’t believe it has ever been reissued, and frankly, beyond Pearl Jam completists, I’m not certain that much of a market for it exists. This record, more than their others, embodies the grunge sound—it’s thick, slow, sludgy, and hard. However, it’s also their least interesting record. They're clearly a young band, still finding their bearings. Except for “Come on Down” and “Swallow My Pride,” I don’t find much to recommend it; furthermore, Green River recorded a superior version of “Swallow My Pride” for Rehab Doll. Still, it’s an important record in other regards (it’s the only one on which Steve Turner appears), and I don’t expect it to be reissued anytime soon.
Incidentally, web reviewer extraordinaire Mark Prindle thinks little of Green River, especially Rehab Doll. His reviews should be taken with a grain of salt; after all, he owns everything that Johnny Cougar ever released. Then again, he also has a jaw-droppingly comprehensive collection of records by the Fall, so he's allowed to love "Hurts So Good" as much as he wants. I mention his page only because I like it.
Finally, a decent entry on Green River can be found on wikipedia, and this Mudhoney page also has a good history of the band.
Green River--"Come on Down"
Green River--"New God"
Green River--"Swallow My Pride"
Green River--"Ride of Your Life"
Green River--"Corner of My Eye"
Green River--"Tunnel of Love"