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Green Review

by Mark Deming

In the mid-'80s, Chicago's music scene was dominated by muscular, hard-edged punk-inspired acts like Naked Raygun, Big Black, and the Effigies, and in this context Green stuck out like a sore thumb, as Jeff Lescher and his bandmates wrote smart, tuneful, and energetic pop tunes and played them with the appropriate degree of spunk communicated through simple, well-crafted arrangements. Listening to Green's first full-length album years after the fact, it often seems as if Green were pushing the aggressive factor of some of their songs in order to better fit in with their peers; the anger of "Hurt You" and the snarky attitude of "Big in Japan" and "I'm Not Going Down (Anymore)" feel forced, and while these guys could rock out when they wanted, they were always at their best when they were willing to fly their flag for the hooky stuff they loved. And there are some top-shelf pop tunes on Green's self-titled debut; the nervy "Gotta Getta Record Out" is an anthem for every band with more ambition than experience, "Curry Your Favor" is full of heartfelt romantic yearning, the mostly acoustic "For You" shows off a folk-rock influence that fit this band nicely, "I Don't Wanna Say No" does the same for rhythm & blues, and "I Play the Records" is a irresistible rocker with a snaky guitar line. Lescher's guitar and vocal work is strong throughout, bassist John Diamond and drummer John Valley fill in the empty spaces and keep the music moving forward at all times, and if the production is a bit thin in spots, it captures the essence of the band very well indeed. Green may not have been the hippest band in Chicago in 1986, but the album they made that year shows they could write a great song and make it work on tape, and that's a skill to be appreciated whatever the time, place, or fashion. [The 2009 CD reissue of Green includes seven bonus tracks, most drawn from the 1984 EP The Name of This Band Is Green. Four of the songs were re-recorded for the album, and with good reason; while the performances are game, the amateur-sounding production and mix rob the material of its strength, and they did better with the songs the second time around.]

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