There is no doubt that Green River were the first grunge band. Still, to say that is not to offer up a revelation of any kind but, rather, to remind again what that term once meant. Listening to this band's earliest recordings, reissued last week courtesy of Sub Pop, is to dive in again into a form that was -- albeit briefly -- something legitimatelly unseemly and dangerous.
While it's well known that two of these guys (Steve Turner and Mark Arm) would later form Mudhoney, and another two (Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard) would form Pearl Jam, the reality is that Green River were a pretty good act in their own right, as 1986's Dry As A Bone reveals. Expanded here considerably, the EP from the group sees Arm offer up Iggy-inspired riff-rockers like the spry "Unwind", and "Together We'll Never", all "No Fun"-style menace done up in a 'Mats-ish form. The release itself is nearly essential, especially for fans of both Mudhoney and Pearl Jam considering how far this music remains from the more recognizable sounds of those two groups.
Rehab Doll, the band's final full-length release, contains quite a few gems from the era, with rough numbers like "Swallow My Pride" and the wonderfully-named "Porkfist" staking out territory that's equal parts sludge-metal and Butthole Surfers noise-rock. The version of "One More Stitch" found here on Rehab Doll is more languid and sinister than the version found on Dry As A Bone, with shades of Sabbath even showing up, and it indicates a new direction that this band could have pursued.
If the music of Green River lacked the focus of that of later Sub Pop bands, at least there's a real, definable sound apparent on these two reissues. Grunge really, for all intents and purposes, begins here, with Mark Arm and his crew figuring out as they go along how to translate a love of old Stooges records into something that fit in with the Eighties U.S. alt-rock scene.
Dry As A Bone and Rehab Doll are out now via Sub Pop.
[Photo: Charles Peterson]