I’ve written about Green River a number of times, touching on their EPs Come On Down (1985) and Dry As A Bone (1987) as well as the 2016 RSD collection 1984 Demos, so I’ll make an effort not to re-hash all that stuff. Let it suffice to say there is an argument to be made that Green River was the Patient Zero of grunge. They were well known within the Seattle music community and their breakup led to the formation of some seminal bands, most notably Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, and Pearl Jam. That’s some pretty good lineage right there.
Rehab Doll was the band’s first and only full-length, nine songs of dirty, grimy rock ‘n’ roll. The guitar work has a surprising amount of 1980s hard rock and NWOBHM to it, though things stay a bit slower and weightier than the more popular metal of the period. You can almost feel what would become Mother Love Bone bubbling under in the music. Add to that Mark Arm’s somewhat unorthodox, half-spoken-half-sung vocal whine and you get something unusual, something that didn’t fit neatly into a genre box circa 1988 (though it would very soon).
It’s interesting that Green River included “Swallow My Pride”, arguably their best known song and one featuring Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon on backing vocals, on Rehab Doll. The song first appeared on Come On Down three years earlier, so it certainly wasn’t new. I’m not sure if this is a different version, and frankly I’m too lazy to check. It may simply be a matter of putting their best foot forward on this, their first Sub Pop release. My version is actually the one put out in Europe by Glitterhouse, which is notable because it includes an additional track that doesn’t appear on any of the Sub Pop versions, a cover of David Bowie’s “Queen Bitch”.