Dan Vapid and the Cheats - Dan Vapid and the Cheats (Cover Artwork)

Dan Vapid and the Cheats

Dan Vapid and the Cheats (2012)

Torture Chamber

Fans of power-pop infused punk rock didn't have a lot of time to lament the death of the Methadones and the Riverdales (one can only assume the demise of the latter based on the tumultuous relationship between Dan Vapid and Ben Weasel). Wasting little time after the notorious SXSW incident that saw the entire rhythm section of Screeching Weasel resign, Vapid re-teamed with former Methadones drummer and guitarist Mike Soucy and Mike Byrne, respectively, as well as ex-Screeching Weasel/Riverdales bassist Simon Lamb to form Dan Vapid And the Cheats. Initially playing sets comprised of a veritable "greatest hits" of Vapid's songwriting efforts from the Riverdales, the Methadones, the Mopes and more, the band has gone on to write original material and self-release their debut album a little over a year after forming.

The 15 pop-punk tracks on the self-titled album turn out to be a pleasant amalgamation of all the aforementioned bands. Tracks like "Just Like Cleopatra," "Beware of the Fog" and "It Lives By Night" would be right at home on a Riverdales record, while "Feeling Manic," "Die Trying," "What Do You Wanna Do Tonight?" and "In a Heartbeat" sound like they could have been cuts from a Methadones album. The delightfully gonzo "Devo on Speed" is a great, synth-infused tribute to new wave, but one of the band's best songs is also one of the most surprising: "Girl Group," a wonderful doo-wop throwback that sounds as if it could have been a jukebox hit from the mid-1950s.

In some way, the album is all across the map stylistically, but it gels nicely thanks to the songs all being rooted in the same brand of power-pop/pop-punk. One song may be drastically different from the one that came before it, but it never feels jarring. Vapid and company have been playing together in various bands for years and it comes across as such. Dan Vapid and the Cheats sound like they've been around for a lot longer than they have.

Vapid's affinity for writing solid, catchy tunes is at the forefront of this record. Even though there are a lot of comparisons to previous bands, there is a unique sound here that has a little something that those other bands didn't have. The songs have a kind of timeless quality, which I think is a testament to Vapid's ability to craft really great songs.