Mother Love Bone

Stardog / Polygram Records, 1989

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Maybe because popular music was so unbearably bad, maybe because poor economic times tend to bring out some of the best music out there, but the "grunge" movement was bound to happen. Nirvana was a great band who brought the movement to the mainstream, but the public appetite was there. If Nirvana only went gold on Nevermind, Pearl Jam's Ten and Soundgarden still would have gone multi-platinum.

One band was on the verge of becoming superstars. And because of their demise, Pearl Jam was able to form. For anyone who has bought a CD from any of these artists, I don't need to tell you who the band was:Mother Love Bone. When Mother Love Bone released their first major label album, Apple in 1990, with a little marketing, they could have been huge. At the time, heavy metal was still a marketable, but dying music trend. People would no longer buy a heavy metal album just because a ballad was on it, hence the flop sophomoric efforts of Winger and White Lion. Listeners who wanted something different got it with Mother Love Bone.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The band still teased their hair, some of the songs seemed custom made for making out in the backseat of a Honda but their pop smarts made them true musicians. The radio-friendly merge between heavy metal and psychedelic was evident on tracks like "This is Shangrila" and "Stargazer". Their lyrics were far more mature than most heavy metal. True, nothing on Apple matches the complexity of Tool, but singer Andy Wood knew how to play the singer/songwriter as well as a rock star. The beautiful ballad, "Crown of Thorns" remains one of the most touching breaking up ballads made.

Andy Wood was no James Taylor, however. Unlike Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder, Wood pined to be in the spotlight.

"With my crustal sheen guitar/I'm another ego star/so give it to me, give it to me," Wood sings on "This is Shangrila". This song also contains a line that would tragically not mirror his own life: "I'm the football who is who/I don't believe in smack/so don't you die on me."

Guitarist Stone Gossard and Jett Ament would later expand their talents with Pearl Jam. But with Mother Love Bone, they formed a tight cohesion. Unfortunately, some elements of Apple have indeed turned brown nearly a decade later. The motorcycle imagery of "Holy Roller" and weaker ballads such as "Gentle Groove" seem to emulate the worst characteristics of classic rock. I have little doubt that the majority of the flaws on Apple would have been gone by their third release.

Unfortunately we are left with Apple and a double retrospective CD. And with the rightful probability of Andy Wood's persona eclipsing Kurt Cobain and Pearl Jam not forming, it is rightful to put Mother Love Bone as one of the most important artists of the 1990s. Like the lead singer of Sublime, Andy Wood died of a heroin overdose. And similarly, they each had a vision of the new trend in music and grasped it, only to have died and never see their labors rewarded with a huge legion of fans. Damn.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Stardog / Polygram Records, and is used for informational purposes only.