The story of Seattle’s rise to global rock supremacy in the late ’80s and early ’90s begins with Green River. Made up of Jeff Ament (bass), Mark Arm (guitar/vocals), Bruce Fairweather (guitar), Stone Gossard (guitar), and Alex Shumway (drums), the quintet put out three 12”s and a 7” single during its brief existence. Green River’s influence on Seattle’s music scene spread far and wide thanks to the members’ dispersion into bands including Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, and Love Battery, as well as the punk-glam-sludge-rock songs they left behind.
“By ’83, ’84, there was definitely a movement that was happening within hardcore, like Black Flag slowing down for My War,” says Arm. “The Replacements and Butthole Surfers were rearing their heads, and they’re very different bands, but they’re not hardcore—the Replacements are pretty much straight-up rock, and Butthole Surfers were God knows what. Sonic Youth’s Bad Moon Rising was around, and a lot of really interesting post-hardcore things were happening.”
Green River, which formed in 1984, was part of that evolution, with a sound that straddled a lot of different genres—blues, punk, bloozy straight-ahead rock. The mini-LP Dry As A Bone, which came out in 1987, and the band’s lone full-length Rehab Doll, which came out in 1988, were released as a single CD with a few bonus cuts, including their sneering cover of David Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” and their marauding version of Dead Boys’ “Ain’t Nothin’ to Do,” in 1990—but they’ve been unavailable on vinyl for years. Now, these slices of Seattle music history are not only back in print, they’re accompanied by items from the vaults that had been forgotten about for decades.
Dry As A Bone was recorded at Jack Endino’s Reciprocal Recording in 1986, and it shows the band in furious form, with Arm’s yowl battling Fairweather and Gossard’s ferocious guitar playing on “This Town” and “Unwind” opening as a slow bluesy grind then jump-starting itself into a hyperactive chase. The deluxe edition includes Green River’s cuts from the crucial Seattle-scene compilation Deep Six, as well as long-lost songs that were recorded to the now-archaic format Betamax.
Rehab Doll, recorded largely at Seattle’s Steve Lawson Studios., bridges the gap between the taut, punky energy of Dry As a Bone and the bigger drums and thicker riffs that were coming to dominate rock in the late ’80s. This new edition of Rehab Doll includes a version of “Swallow My Pride” recorded to 8-track at Endino’s Reciprocal Recording, which features a more accurate depiction of how the band sounded when they played live. “When I listen to these mixes, I think, ‘This is how we actually sounded—this is the kind of energy we had,'” says Shumway.
Green River’s place in American music history is without question, but these recordings paint a more complete picture of the band—and of rock in the mid- to late-’80s, when punk’s faster-and-louder ideals had begun shape-shifting into other ideas.