Review Summary: A great album, nothing excellent, but definitly not bad. A must buy for grunge fans, and a different type of music for anyone else interested in branching out.
Grunge, the word itself can portray different images and other things. Most often recognized as a “fad” and produced some bands that had major success. Behind the mainstream grunge it wasn’t just a type of style of clothing to wear, it wasn’t just a style of music, it was a movement. Grunge mass produced many bands, and a select handful made it big. How and when was it started? Who helped it become so successful? Some members who helped start, and make grunge what it was, were part of a little known grunge band called Green River.
The grunge movement in the late 80’s and early 90’s was a strong and powerful movement, and many bands were formed out of it. Some were very similar to each other; and some were completely original and different. The shining gems of success from the grunge movement would include Nirvana, Pearl Jam or Soundgarden, but one of those many bands that didn’t get much needed recognition is Green River. Green River was one of the first grunge bands to form in 1984, right along with The Melvins, Malfunkshun and Soundgarden. The name Green River came from a very dangerous serial killer at the time, who wasn’t apprehended until many years later. Their career was a short one, lasting only until 1988. Members of the band consisted of mainly those from other bands at the time such as Mr. Epp and the Limp Richerds, Spluii Numa, and Deranged Diction. What the members of Green River really are known for is their later successes consisting of Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone. Right away before you even listen to the album you know your getting something special with a lineup that went on to spearhead the grunge movement in it’s time of supremacy.
Green River does have a great lineup of members, but they also have some other positives. One of them would easily be catchiness. Whether it’s cleverly placed rhythm vocals, infectious riffs, hard pounding drum beats, solos, you name it Green River flawlessly gets it stuck in your head. Many of the tracks on “Dry as a bone/rehab doll” have great catchy intros, drawing you into the song, and at times enough to restart it just to hear the intro. If I were to do a track by track review of “Dry as a bone/rehab doll” a majority of the song descriptions would begin with “the song starts off with a nice, catchy intro”. Rhythm vocals do a nice job throughout the album, and take some of the work load off of Arm. The rhythm vocals also come at great times, to save some songs from repetitiveness. Drum beats are an essential part of Green River’s sound, drummer Alex Shumway slams away with frenzied precision. Shumway’s drum beats also add more of that ugly, grungy atmosphere to Green River’s sound. Finally the riffs are equally addictive as anything else on “Dry as a bone/rehab doll”. With Stone Gossard and Bruce Fairweather on guitar you would expect great catchy guitar play. Along with great catchy guitar play, great solos are included. Gossard and Fairweather thrown down epic solos time and time again throughout the album, making guitar play an even bigger positive. As soon as a song slows down a bit a much needed solo makes things interesting.
With all the positives of Green River there are some crucial flaws that they have. One would be the vocal performance of Mark Arm. His vocals can get quite annoying at times, and will most likely be too much for some listeners. At some points in the album his vocals take a backseat, and the instrumental play stands out more, which makes the songs more enjoyable. Arm can at times makes up catchy choruses, and make a somewhat good contribution to the song. Then again most of the time Arm’s vocals seem like they hold back the rest of the band, and can get in the way. Another negative that plagues Green River’s sound is repetitiveness. It was very hard for me to listen to “Dry as a bone/rehab doll” without taking a break some time through because a lot of the tracks sound very similar. Most of the positive things about the album make things less repetitive to a degree, but not entirely.
Preferred Track Descriptions
“This Town” is the first song on “Dry as a bone/rehab doll”, and immediately a catchy guitar riff rings through your headphones. You also begin to hear Arm’s vocals, and if you can withstand them you’ll soon begin to accept them. “Dry as a bone/rehab doll” is one of those grower albums, that takes a few listens to really enjoy it. Instrumentally “This Town” includes what Green River does best, backed by Alex Shumway’s primal relentless drum beats that slam ferociously throughout. Stone Gossard and Bruce Fairweather throw down some catchy, quick guitar riffs that don’t tend to get any worse throughout the album similar to Shumway’s drumming.
Jeff Ament plays a bellowing bass riff begins to make your headphones tremor as it efficiently opens up “P.C.C”. Then you hear it backed by a high pitched choppy guitar riff, and this is where the best element of Green River is shown, it’s none other than their catchiness. Shumway’s drumming can not only be technical in this song, but he slams away with brute force and throws down some catchy drum work. Shumway’s drumming stays mainly the same throughout the song, which helps keep the nice steady beat. Arm’s vocals disturb the peace of the amazing intro, by screaming. On “P.C.C” his vocals ruin the great sound that the rest of the band makes, but during the choruses he sings lower and his voice is somewhat listenable. A few frenzied drum and guitar solos are laced in and out of the song which gives the listener a bit of time off from Arm. “P.C.C” is overall one of the shining examples of how great Green River is instrumentally, vocally its one of the lesser tracks but is still overall one of the best on the album and by Green River in general.
“Ain’t nothing to do” is a heavier track, with blaring guitar and bass riffs, backed up by tremendous pounding drum beats. Throughout the song it’s easy to notice “Ain’t nothing to do” is a track based more on instrumental play. The rest of the band blends their styles all in one song, with adding speed, sloppy yet effective play, ugly sounding guitar riffs and solos, and a bellowing bass line that keeps things together. As a whole “Ain’t nothing to do” is a great track, and a bit better than the two or three tracks before it.
The intro is flawless, and grabs your attention quickly. This time the bass and drum draw you into the song, while distortion from guitar follows in the background. Arm does his usual scream to signal in the heavy, fast paced part of the song “Forever Means”. Green River keeps everything similar and doesn’t change too much throughout, and “Forever Means” is a good example. Not too much different than all the others, except a change in guitar riffs from long, to short and choppy. “Forever Means” is another very catchy song, and the guitar riff tends to stick around in your head for awhile. Some clever rhythm singing during the chorus also adds to the catchiness of the song, making it very enjoyable.
“Rehab Doll” brings the heaviness back, and starts off with a screaming guitar solo intro. Then the mood is thrown from fast, heavy guitar riffs to a sludgy pace. The choppy riffs from “Forever Means” show up in this song, as well as some well placed rhythm singing in the choruses. The nicest guitar solo in the whole album occurs for half a minute, and ends the repetitiveness, for a little while. After the solo a powerful bass riff ends out the song, making “Rehab Doll” one of those must listens.
“Dry as a bone/rehab doll” is a very good album, but also has some huge negativities as well. The instrumental play of an all star grunge lineup that makes up Green River kept me listening, and came up catchy time and time again. In the end I’d say “Dry as a bone/rehab doll” is a great album, without its negative tendencies that don’t go away it would easily be a superb album, but every album has its strengths and weaknesses. “Dry as a bone/rehab doll” is a must buy for grunge fans, and definitely something new to check out for all music listeners.
The members of Green River include:
Mark Arm: Vocals
Stone Gossard: Guitar
Bruce Fairweather: Guitar
Jeff Ament: Bass
Alex Shumway: Drums
- This Town
- Ain’t Nothing to Do
- Forever Means
- Rehab Doll