The Riverdales - The Riverdales (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Riverdales

The Riverdales (1995)

Lookout Records

In 1995, as contemporaries like Green Day, Rancid and many others were tasting mainstream success, Screeching Weasel did what any other band would do in that situation -- they broke up. Three-fourths of the band's classic lineup, however, quickly reconvened (minus John Jughead) to form The Riverdales. The Riverdales' statement of intent came in the form of a self-titled full-length that brought elements of Screeching Weasel's previous work, filtered through a desire to pay more direct tribute to the godfathers of pop-punk, the Ramones. The album succeeded in that regard, though future Riverdales albums would add production flourishes that would take the Ramones worship even further.

If you're thinking to yourself that Screeching Weasel already demonstrated a pretty strong Ramones influence, you'd be right. But unlike that band, The Riverdales seemed less concerned with building on the influence of the Ramones and more concerned with carrying the banner of the punk pioneers. Gone were the catchy guitar solo lead-ins and snottiest of the lyrics, replaced be a stripped down approach featuring buzzsaw guitars, verse-chorus-verse structures and lyrics that cling more to the tropes of classic oldies than the cliches of punk rock.

There were other differences, too. For one, the members of the band used their real names. Ben Weasel became Ben Foster, Dan Vapid became Dan Schaefer and Danny Panic became Danny Sullivan. The band also took a more equitable approach to the vocals. Whereas Ben Weasel was the unquestioned lead singer in Screeching Weasel, in The Riverdales, Foster and Schaefer split the vocal duties pretty much down the middle. That particular change is significant, as Schaefer's style is quite different than Foster's and, frankly, is much more effective in capturing the sound The Riverdales were trying to achieve. It should come as no surprise that most Riverdales fans cite a preference for the songs Schaefer sings.

In many ways, it's what Schafer added to the album that made it stand apart from Screeching Weasel's earlier work. Stepping out of the role of supporting player allowed Schaefer to demonstrate the full range of his talents. Tracks like "Back To You," which was featured on the soundtrack to the film "Angus," marks the first of what would become a regular feature in the band's repetoire -- the Dan Schaefer ballad. Not unlike the Ramones' occasional ballads, the addition of tracks like this gave a strong nod to the influence that came from the classic ballads of the 1960s.Followers of Dan Schaefer's other bands know well that these ballads are also a staple of his work with The Methadones and The Cheats.

Historically, this record remains and important document in the history of Screeching Weasel and its offshoots. When Screeching Weasel returned to the scene a year later with Bark Like a Dog, they brought many of the elements first heard on The Riverdales album with them, to the point that Bark sounds almost like a hybrid of the two bands. After 20 years though, the primary question is always "does it hold up?" In this case, the answer is yes. If you're looking for a soundtrack to summer fun in 2015, you'd still be making an excellent choice in spinning The Riverdales' first record.