Thursday, May 6, 2010

Review #107: Green River - Come On Down (1985)


Year: 1985
Genre: Punk Rock
Grunge, Hardcore
Label: Homestead Records

28 Minutes (Medium-Length)
My Rating:

Green River was formed out of the remnants of the Limp Richerds, a hardcore band from the early 1980s that stopped performing in 1984 (but never officially broke up until 1987). Mark Arm and Steve Turner were in that band, and those two decided to start a new band called Green River (named after a notorious serial killer). They also recruited Jeff Ament, who was previously in a band called Deranged Diction. Green River is often considered to be one of the first 'grunge' bands ever. The band came from Seattle, Washington, and experimented musically by taking the hardcore punk sound they were used to playing and slowing it down to a heavy metal pace, similar to what another band, the Melvins, were starting to do around this time. By late 1984, they were in the process of recording their debut album, "Come On Down". This album is often considered to be the first grunge album ever.

1. Come On Down
Begins with a mysterious whisp of noize. The song is pretty slow. Mark Arm plays the role of Green River, inviting you down to him in a sinister way; "C'MON DOWN TO GREEN RIVER...". The guitar is cool, but I don't think it's quite loud enough. But it's okay. During the chorus, alternating parts of the vocals are sung into the left and right side of your speakers. I thought that was a pretty nice touch. There's a guitar solo.

2. New God
A slow, heavy song. Once again, it plays upon the victimizer theme. This song is told from the viewpoint of a cult leader or the devil or something like that. The song's narrator assures the listener, "I don't want your money, or anything you own -- I'm not asking for much, I only want your soul". The character also asks for the souls of your children, lest the character gets "ugly and mean". The riff is very ominous and cool-sounding.

3. Swallow My Pride
This song sounds more like a traditional punk song, but with a little bit of guitar twang off to the side. The song's about something we've probably all dealt with at some point. It tells the story from the viewpoint of a guy who's dating a girl, who confronts him about politics, telling him, "There's one thing you've gotta see: even though we're heading for war, this nation's prouder than ever before/it's just the spirit in the air; we're more American than anywhere". The song's protagonist feels an undying rage for the girl he loved, thinking "this little girl is going to hell" -- surely if someone said those sort of things to me, I'd be pretty disturbed, too. The riff is a lot more upbeat, in my opinion. There's two other versions of this song that can be heard. One is from their 1988 album, "Rehab Doll", and the other is an early demo featuring Kim Gordon singing the lines that are supposed to be the words of the female character. That version is my favorite one.

4. Ride of Your Life
The song kicks off faster than anything else of the album -- real fast! Then it slows down a half-minute into the song, which is the pace it stays at for the rest of the song. For the most part, it's slow and dark. The song describes the process of a person overdosing on heroin ("you bought your last ride with a shot in your arm"). Slowly, the energy shifts, getting more and more calm and beautiful until fading out, like a pleasant death... a guitar solo is played, as the song slowly fades out. End of Side 1.

5. Corner of My Eye
Another fast song (not quite as fast as the song before it, though). It's about a stalker who watches his victims and learns all about them, until he attempts to take from them, or else he won't let 'em leave. Halfway through the song, the tempo slows down. Mark's vocals are somewhat muffled by the guitar sounds, which adds to a sort of ominous tone of the song. Towards the end, the song speeds up back to the normal pace, with plenty of lead guitar this time!

6. Tunnel of Love
The band attempts to start the song a few times before it finally begins. It's like a heavy hardcore punk song. Similar to Flipper, I guess. It's a very long song, too (eight minutes long). It's about a guy who falls in love with a girl, only to be allowed to do so if he "gives it all up" (it's never really implied what that meant, though). But apparently it had some pretty damn bad effects on the guy, 'cause he shows up at Mark's house all green-faced, and "he fell down shaking on to my floor". Mark reaches some really fucking high screams in this song! The song at one point becomes very slow and quiet, before a fast finale hits us one last time!

To be honest, I never even listened to Green River a whole ton before this. It's still not my favorite album in the world, but it isn't bad either by any means. And hey, helping invent a new genre of music isn't so bad. It's a sinister, creepin', crawlin' mess of sarcasm, cynicism, and a twisted sense of humor. If albums were people, this album would be the guy who snickers at you on your way down to Hell. But anyways, it's a pretty good example of the early days of grunge... somewhere between Black Flag and the later grunge bands (I'm sure you know what those are).

Top 3 Favorites:
1. Swallow My Pride
2. New God
3. Corner of My Eye

1 comment:

  1. i was just about to review this. well actually i meant to do so like months ago. its weird desiding which is the real first grunge album. i think Mark Arm is the one who came up with the term while he was in Mr Epp and the calculations. he wrote to a letter to Jon of sub pop if im correct describing his band as "Pure grunge! pure shit"