For their first full-length album (well, assuming you consider 29 minutes to be full-length), Green River went into a 24-track recording studio for the first time, and 1988's Rehab Doll was the result. This was easily the band's most polished piece of record making, though polish is not necessarily a good thing. Producer Bruce Calder may have given Rehab Doll a sharper and tighter recording than Green River had experienced in the past, but it also flattened out a bit of the guitar attack from Stone Gossard and Bruce Fairweather, and Alex Vincent was subjected to a gated snare sound that didn't suit this material at all. The performances were also tighter and sleeker than ever before, but where the 1987 Dry as a Bone EP sounded like Green River's punk, hard rock, and metal influences were bouncing off one another in a chaotic bid for domination, here hard rock clearly wins out, and while it's a taut and well-executed variety of hard rock (with Gossard and Fairweather locked in with admirable precision), it wasn't quite as exciting as much of their earlier work.
Mark Arm's vocals and lyrics are great, though, pointing to the raw snarl he would perfect in Mudhoney, and though the recording doesn't always put him as far forward as it should, his sheer presence is the best and strongest thing about this album. Rehab Doll would prove to be Green River's swan song, and they would call it a day shortly after its release, but if this doesn't capture them at their best, it not only helped define what was coming to be known as grunge, but also provided a clear map to the stronger bands these musicians would form later on. [Sub Pop released an expanded and remastered edition of Rehab Doll in 2019, and in a rare example of historical revisionism proving to be a good thing, Jack Endino gave the album a new mix for the release. Endino cleared away many of the dated production choices that marred the original release, and the more straightforward and less cluttered mix is a genuine improvement, though the historically minded might wish it appeared alongside the original instead of replacing it. Endino has also included two outtakes from the Rehab Doll sessions, as well as six quick-and-dirty demos that better reflect Green River's live onslaught than the takes for the album. And the set closes out with a pair of covers -- the Aerosmith rarity "Somebody" and David Bowie's "Queen Bitch" -- that sound like the band was having a blast tackling some old favorites, and they're the most purely enjoyable tracks here. Green River completists will want to hold on to their older copies of Rehab Doll if they ever want to hear its original incarnation again, but for sheer rock action, this refurbished edition is an improvement all around.] ~ Mark Deming