Review Summary: Forever destined to be in Pearl Jam's shadow, Andrew Wood, Seattle's great lost hope showed his unique brand of glam-grunge on this classic album.
It is a sad truth when discussing the Seattle "Grunge" scene of the mid-80s to early 90s that most people will immediately think of Nirvana
, possibly Pearl Jam
and, in exceptional cases, Alice in Chains
. It is less likely however that anyone will think of Mother Love Bone, Seattle's great lost hopes. The old adage of "what could have been" has never really been more relevant for a band. Having been courted by every major record label from Geffen to Polygram, Mother Love Bone signed with the latter and were set to be huge. Geffen had clearly seen the opportunity to market the band as the next Guns n' Roses (ironic considering MLB's place in the grunge history). When tragedy struck and the band's enigmatic frontman, Andrew Wood, died of a heroin overdose at the age of 24 the band had only an EP and one newly recorded, yet-to-be released long-player to their name. The world moved on and guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament went on to take on the world with Pearl Jam
when Nevermind brought Seattle to the attention of the world.
It would be easy to write Mother Love Bone off as a footnote at the bottom of Pearl Jam's history, but this would ignore the fact that, in their 3 years together, Mother Love Bone made some of the most unique music in rock history. That seems like a bold statement considering how easily recognisable the influences on this album are. Led Zeppelin, Queen, Guns n' Roses and T-Rex are all apparent when listening to these twelve songs. What makes Apple
unique is Andrew Wood. It is certainly a cliche, but one that is well-founded, to say that some people are born to be a star. Andrew Wood was one of these people. He believed it, even if no one else did. There is something absolutely irresistable in hard-rocking songs such as Holy Roller
, Come bite the apple
and This is Shangri-la
. Stone Gossard's stadium rock riffs and Bruce Fairweather's wailing blues solos are perhaps unusual for a "grunge" band (or at least if your knowledge of grunge extends as far as Nirvana) but they are certainly catchy enough to warrant further listens; something which opens up Apple's
Aside from Wood's humorous lyrics and the band's bombastic glam-rock sound there was another side to Mother Love Bone. Songs such as Bone China
and Crown of Thorns
showcase a rare quality of the band, that is, that they could make what are essentially power ballads without being remotely superficial or "cheesy", something most rock bands in the late 80s found difficult to achieve. Hints at Wood's battle with drugs are evident throughout the record, the title itself being a euphemism for heroin. Crown of Thorns
, the record's closing track and Wood's masterpiece, serves as a kind of suicide note for the singer. Lines like "Life is what you make it, and if you make it death, well rest your soul away" show a darker side to this flamboyant, camp showman with a Freddy Mercury fixation. By the time the album fades out with Wood and Fairweather trading vocal and guitar lines it is obvious that Apple
is a special album. Dated? Perhaps. Flawed? Certainly, but what is important is that the album is listened to. Andrew Wood should not be forgotten. Even if the only memorial is that Pearl Jam regularly cover Crown of Thorns
in concert in tribute to Wood, it is enough to know that the band didn't die with him.