[24 February 2009]
Green River Ordinance are inheritors of that shadow-world where Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and the Pixies aren’t the most important bands of the previous generation, who went on gleefully loving the classic rock-influenced Americana and heartfelt songwriting of Springsteen, Seger, and Mellencamp when it was utterly uncool. In this mirror universe, grunge was simply a blip on the radar, and “alternative” only mattered inasmuch as it produced compelling songcraft—as in the college rock of R.E.M., 10,000 Maniacs, and the Posies. This aesthetic, strongly tied to the southern and midwestern United States, had its heyday in the mid-to-late 1990s, when the Gin Blossoms, Hootie & the Blowfish, Sister Hazel, Train, and many more lesser-known groups (hats tip to the sadly forgotten Athenaeum and Treehouse) knocked out hits without ever really accumulating a genre designation more specific than “modern rock”. Sure, certain hipper-than-thou publications wouldn’t (and won’t) touch this stuff with a bunny suit on, but this is PopMatters, where we can look back at this time period and note that it wasn’t nearly as bland or vapid as the worst of the snobs make it out to be.
Closer to the present day, Green River Ordinance’s sound strongly resembles Chicago lifers Bottle of Justus, though comparisons to Augustana will probably be more likely. The disc is full of catchy, earnest, radio-ready anthems that sparkle with pure pop drama and fire. They aren’t innovators, but they don’t need to be; they’re continuing a tradition of melodic rock that eternally skirts the edges of the Top 40 world, watching fad after fad pass by while only occasionally landing mainstream success. The likelihood of their doing so is directly related to the amount of dollars their major label pours into them; this reviewer, for one, is hoping Virgin ponies up.