Green River: Dry As A Bone & Rehab Doll (Re-Issues) (Sub Pop)

Legendary Washington State proto-grungers' back catalogue reissued with extras

Released Jan 25th, 2019 via Sub Pop / By Erick Mertz
Green River: Dry As A Bone & Rehab Doll (Re-Issues) (Sub Pop) Squint and you can almost see it. There was a time before people flocked to the Pacific Northwest in droves, when the rock was gravel bellied and sawdust coursed through the veins of the rain soaked audience. The 90’s grunge genre as we know it today is most recognizable through the legacies of bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden. These groups may stand as a reflection of that embryonic time and space in rock music, but really few truly embody grunge’s original zeitgeist like Green River.

Named for the infamous Seattle area Green River Killer (a serial killer, Gary Ridgway who had a twenty year run of infamy along the Interstate corridor) the band had a heyday in the middle-eighties that was as long on influence as it was short on recorded output. Two EPs, one single, one compilation and one proper full-length album are all we have of a band that launched a thousand bands.

Green River never made the same impact on rock as those they influenced. They lacked the polished grind that Soundgarden relished. They had none of the doomed, voice of en era charisma of Nirvana. Pearl Jam, the soul survivors of that era, ended up cannibalizing their members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament. Viewed with twenty years of hindsight, Green River was that band destined to burn out in a flash.

Recorded in 1986 and released more than a year later due to trouble with distribution, Dry As A Bone is the high water mark for Green River, especially if you’re looking to find points of distinction between the band and their grunge contemporaries. The five core tracks are sleazy and full of blistering energy that gave no illusion of penetration to a mainstream audience. On tracks like This Town and Ozzie and Unwind the band is clearly drawing vital connections between punk/post punk and what would eventually become grunge.

Out of Dry As A Bone came Rehab Doll and the division in sound is obvious right away. This was supposed to be the band’s major label launch as envisioned by Ament and Gossard and the album reflects that fade-to-the-middle concern (the focus on commercial success may have split the band) The sound has its feet in two ponds, what would become a more tepid, radio friendly grunge and the roadside grime of its predecessor. This isn’t to say that Rehab Doll isn’t a great album. Swallow My Pride reached mainstream audiences (albeit in demo form) and the title track isn’t too shabby, but this was nowhere near as arresting as the first album.

What is gathered between these two re-issues is the definitive Green River collection. Perhaps it’s the disadvantage of knowing as much, but the presentation of these albums is the real issue at play. The original Rehab Doll was eight tracks (nine if you count the cassette only cover of Bowie’s Queen Bitch) but here it stretches out to eighteen. Similarly, Dry As A Bone was a five track EP that bloats all the way to sixteen.

While the compulsion to memorialize the complete output of this gloriously underappreciated band is understandable, I would have cataloged their music differently. This would have been much cleaner as two proper albums with a third dedicated to the outtakes, singles and extras. Giving the archivists the benefit of the doubt (I can think of few bands whose output was blurrier than Green River) they’ve made enjoyable capsules, but they are senseless nonetheless. Perhaps the real issue is the expectation of anything clean. 4/5