Mother Love Bone – “Apple” (1990)

Mother Love BoneSome folks thought Mother Love Bone was going to be the next big thing.  Certainly their label (Polygram) believed in MLB — they created a sub-label imprint specifically for the band called Stardog Records.  That’s a vote of confidence if there ever was one.  Of course, it was not to be because MLB front man Andrew Wood died of a heroin overdose just before the scheduled release of their first full-length LP Apple.  Interestingly, Wood’s death lead to fortuitous results for MLB band members Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard.  They went on to collaborate with members of Soundgarden on the exquisite Temple Of The Dog album (in tribute to Wood), and then to earth-shattering success with Pearl Jam.

Like many, I didn’t discover Mother Love Bone until after the Seattle rock scene became all the rage in the early nineties when bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Nirvana started amassing platinum sales.  I think I first heard Mother Love Bone when Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns appeared on the motion picture soundtrack for the 1992 movie Singles.  The album was composed mostly of Seattle bands including Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees, and Soundgarden.  (An absolutely essential soundtrack by the way, and one that, incidentally, featured Alice In Chains’ Would? — the lyrics to which were about Andrew Wood.)  The Temple Of The Dog album also piqued my interest in Mother Love Bone.

When I first listened to Apple, I think I was hoping for some sort of proto-Pearl Jam, because I was such a fan of Pearl Jam’s Ten at the time.  To only a small degree, those expectations were met.  The guitar and bass lines of songs like Heartshine and Captain Hi-Top are similar to songs on Pearl Jam’s first album like Once and Even Flow.  But overall, Mother Love Bone is much different from Pearl Jam because Andrew Wood and Eddie Vedder are nothing alike.  I learned quickly to appreciate Andrew Wood on his own terms — as a captivating vocalist with a unique voice and style.  In fact, Wood was a lot closer to the eighties-style rock star than the nineties archetype with whom he is often lumped (like Cobain, Vedder, and Staley).  Wood was more flashy and charismatic, his lyrics more ethereal and lovelorn.  He was a dreamer with his head in the clouds — a far cry from the troubled angst of the other Seattle stars.

Apple is a great album.  Every song is a good one, and the pacing and sequencing are such that the album should be played from start to finish for optimal impact.  Andrew Wood was a force to be reckoned with.  He had the makings of a true rock star.  He truly shines on this album.  It is hard to say whether Mother Love Bone were really going to be the next big thing.  But I think it would have been really cool if they were.  My score: A+

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