TEMPLE OF THE DOG – TEMPLE OF THE DOG (1991)

MOTHER LOVE BONE – SHINE EP (1989)

March 20th, 1989, MOTHER LOVE BONE released their debut EP Shine through Stardog/Mercury Records. Mother Love Bone rose from the ashes of the break-up of three bands. In early 1988, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, and Bruce Fairweather had moved on after Green River ended, while Andrew Wood called time on Malfunkshun, a band that drew much attention in the Pacific Northwest mainly due to Wood’s larger-than-life stage persona.

In 1984, Greg Gilmore and Duff McKagan left Seattle for LA. Prompted by the break-up of their band, 10 Minute Warning, they both decided to try their luck on the Sunset Strip. Gilmore soon became disillusioned with the LA scene and returned home. McKagan remained in LA and joined Guns N’ Roses. On his return to the Pacific Northwest, Gilmore hooked up with Gossard, Ament, Fairweather, and Wood and Mother Love Bone was born.

In hindsight, Mother Love Bone’s Shine EP is a remarkable look at the crossing over of eras and the growth of its protagonists’ considerable skills as songwriters. Stone and Jeff were already locking into place the signature sound that would bring them so much success later with Pearl Jam’s Ten. But what set Mother Love Bone apart was their larger-than-life frontman.

Recorded in November 1988 at London Bridge Studios in Seattle, most of the songs here — with the exception of the eight-minute-long “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns”—draw upon the band’s rawer side. Andrew Wood delivers his highly visual lyrics in a tenor reminiscent of Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant and The Cult’s Ian Astbury.

The EP opens with “Thru Fade Away,” Jeff Ament’s pounding bass riff is feral. The band would refine this sound further, but all the elements are in place immediately. “Mindshaker Meltdown” follows. A perfect example of the Mother Love Bone conundrum, the song sounds like a lost cut from a Faster Pussycat album rather than a band laying the groundwork for a new sound. It perfectly represents Mother Love Bone’s place in history as the bridge between the ’80s glam scene and the ’90s grunge era.

“Half-Assed Monkey Boy” is a funk rock epic with Stone Gossard’s groove riffing in spades. Despite the song’s more upbeat nature, its middle-eight breakdown takes a darker turn, showing the band’s teeth with an exhilarating minor key sojourn before returning to the love rock funk and Andrew Wood’s relentless, energised scatting.

Then we get to “Chloe Dancer/Crown” of Thorns. By any standard, an incredible song. It should be considered two songs sequenced together. The later “Crown of Thorns” section can be found as a stand-alone piece on the band’s sole studio album, Apple, which was released the following year in 1990. The “Chloe Dancer” section that opens the song is unavailable as a stand-alone track, but married to “Crown Of Thorns” on the Shine EP, it’s perfection personified—a highwater mark for a scene yet to explode.

“Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns” is a trancelike epic that manages to be blissfully melancholic and soaringly uplifting. It’s the Generation X “Stairway To Heaven.” Director Cameron Crowe used the song in his 1989 film “Say Anything…” but it didn’t make it onto the film’s accompanying soundtrack release.

Crowe rightly corrected this three years later when he made it the centrepiece of the soundtrack to his 1992 film “Singles.” Of course, Wood himself never experienced the astonishing global impact his city and friends had on the world in the coming years. His tragic death one year after the release of the Shine EP (almost to the day, March 19th, 1990) was a pivotal moment for the burgeoning Seattle music scene.

Out of his passing grew so much life-affirming music. Pearl Jam and Temple Of The Dog might never have existed, nor songs like Alice In Chains “Would?” which Jerry Cantrell wrote about his fallen friend.

Placing “Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns” on the Singles soundtrack in 1992 exposed the band to a new worldwide audience unfamiliar with the fact that their new favourite band, Pearl Jam, had a backstory well worth checking out.

The Shine EP sold well on release and increased the hype surrounding the band. They would refine their sound even more with their debut album, Apple, in 1990, further shedding the ’80s sound and, in doing so, becoming the bridge between what came before and what was to come.