With one pair of Green River veterans off to form Mudhoney, another two ex-members of that Seattle roots-of-punk combo — guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament — launched a hoary-sounding ’70s hard-rock band, Mother Love Bone. With second guitarist Bruce Fairweather, drummer Greg Gilmore and singer Andrew Wood (formerly the singer/bassist in Malfunkshun), Mother Love Bone made its debut on Shine, an EP whose four tracks shrug off Zeppelin and motorsludge — both common regional tendencies in the late ’80s — in favor of a crisp rip that favors Free, Aerosmith and other blues-based bands of the early ’70s. To its credit, the quintet demonstrates noteworthy songwriting facility and the wisdom to tone things down and open the sound up, giving a genuine three-dimensionality to its creation.
With major-label success looming on the horizon (Stardog being a PolyGram pseudo-indie imprint, named for a song of the band’s) and the Northwest scene nearing critical mass, Wood died of a heroin overdose in March ’90, making the posthumous release of the band’s completed album, Apple, a hollow and meaningless roar. Still, Apple focuses all of Mother Love Bone’s assets into a potent rock rush, like contemporaneous Guns n’ Roses, only with better vocals and worse guitar. When the pain of the tragedy eased and MLB’s legend had grown as a result of subsequent developments, the album and EP were combined on a single disc and reissued as Mother Love Bone, with a bonus CD containing a Shine outtake version of “Capricorn Sister” and the unreleased “Lady Godiva Blues.”
Later in 1990, working on weekends as they developed a new project with guitarist Mike McCready (ex-Shadow), Gossard and Ament — joined by vocalist Chris Cornell and drummer Matt Cameron of Soundgarden — recorded an album in tribute to Wood. Most of the songs on Temple of the Dog are Cornell’s; two (“Say Hello 2 Heaven” and “Reach Down,” eleven minutes of grinding gospel carried by a McCready/Gossard guitar slalom) address his late friend directly. Between such sentimentality, the grim drug reality of “Times of Trouble” and the faith-testing religiosity of “Your Saviour” and “Wooden Jesus,” the album is a powerhouse, with more evocative intensity than either Soundgarden or Mother Love Bone had ever demonstrated. McCready and Gossard play up a furious storm of guitar when needed; Eddie Vedder, who had just arrived in Seattle from California to join their new band, renamed Pearl Jam, sings backup on three songs and shares lead with Cornell on “Hunger Strike.”
Digging back to the scene’s prehistory, a full album’s worth of studio recordings by the Kiss-loving Malfunkshun — Andrew Wood, drummer Regan Hagar (later of Brad and Satchel) and Andrew’s brother, Kevin (who now plays guitar in Devilhead) — dating from 1986-’87 were belatedly dredged up and issued as Return to Olympus. Other than the surprising and bizarre “Enter Landrew,” which throws serious riffology against a credibly fey vocal imitation of Marc Bolan, the Zepped-out trio makes obvious, retrograde rock noise (“Jezebel Woman”), even going so far as to cover Ted Nugent’s “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.” But at least one song in this pile — “Luxury Bed (The Rocketship Chair)” — has a rhythmic component that has since become very familiar to fans of Northwest rock.