Read Hard’s Classic Pop Punk Picks #17: Riverdales- S/T

Posted: December 16, 2014 in Read Hard's Classic Pop Punk Picks

The first pop punk pick was Screeching weasel’s Wiggle: Danny Vapid, Ben Weasel and Danny Panic performed on the first album that was picked, and they are also the first ones that get a double dip with their other band the Riverdales! On this side project they used their actual names Dan Schaefer, Ben Foster and Dan Sullivan. The Riverdales tried to stand out as a new band and sounded quite different from Screeching weasel, for one both Ben Foster and Dan Schaefer did vocal duties. The band is described as a mix between Ramonescore and Oldiescore. The name of the band is from the Archie comics, and Riverdale is the town Archie and his friends live in. Screeching weasel also had a few possible references like “Veronica Hates Me”. Ironically, Jughead from Screeching weasel is not in the Riverdales. Another idea for the band was that the lyrics were supposed to be sillier than Screeching weasel and that one could sing about silly things and still make good tunes. The band recorded five albums until they disbanded in 2011 after the infamous SXSW incident. The self-titled is the first one, the second one is Storm the streets, the third is phase 3 and after a long break they were back with the two modern classics Invasion USA (in 2009) and Tarantula (in 2010). Something the later records have in common is that the Schaefer songs are high in quality, maybe even better than the Foster songs. I think 2009-2010 were very good years for Vapid, and he might actually get a third dip with a Methadones album.

Riverdales was released June 7 1995 on Lookout records. The album cover is black and white with the band playing. The album was re-released on Asian Man records on October 10 (my birthday, yay) and had a different album cover, a picture of the Chicago skyline. The album was produced by Billie Joe Armstrong from Green day, with whom the band went on a long world tour. The sound of album is very similar to the two first Ramones albums rather than their later ones and some of Foster’s songs could easily also have been Screeching weasel songs. I first heard the album when I got it for my birthday in 2007 (a year after it was re-released) and I had only heard “Back to You” before and it grew into a great record for me. This is definitely still my favourite Riverdales album!

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1. “Fun Tonight”: The albums starts with the song “Fun tonight” which proclaims that “We’re gonna have fun tonight!” which seems like an apt introduction for what is ahead us on the album. The song, however, is not very fun. This is one of my least favorite Ben Weasel (Foster) songs, and I actually skip it quite often. I also need to add that I very rarely skip songs. It’s just kind of boring. Gay movie director Bruce LaBruce who talks in the “I Wanna Be a Homosexual” intro and appears on the cover of the “Pervo Devo” 7’’ directed a video for the song that was never released.

2. “Judy Go Home”: Musical references to the early Ramones albums needs some lyrical references as well. The second song on the album is a reference to the second song on the first Ramones album: “Judy is a punk”. The Ramones-y tambourine on the song sounds very authentic. The song is about a girl who is totally punk and she doesn’t care about people talking about her and tells her to go home.

3. “Wanna Be Alright”: A Foster song about wanting to be alright. The protagonist in the song tries everything, from turning the music up to taking pills just to be alright. It’s a song that really shows the simplicity of the Riverdales with the lyrics in the chorus just being “Wanna wanna wanna be alright”

4. “Back to You”: The song I first heard on the album and probably still the best one, and one of Vapid’s best songs to date! There’s something very Ramones-y to the song, but one also hears this and think “this is the Riverdales”. The song was released as a single with “I Won’t Forget You” as a B-side. The 7’’ cover was the band posing in Ramones style, which was appropriate. The song was also on the soundtrack for the brilliant movie “Angus” alongside Green day, Ash, Weezer and the Muffs. The song appeared when Angus and Melissa had their dance at the school dance. The subject matter of the song isn’t new, it’s about someone wanting someone, but not repeating the mistakes of the past and going back to them. The solo in the song is maybe my favorite part and it’s sort of reminiscent of the Queers’ “From Your Boy” also from 1995.

5. “Not Over Me”: Another song that could easily be a Screeching weasel song, and I think one of Foster’s most underrated songs on the album. And it seems to be continuing the theme of Schaefer’s song. The protagonist in the song is not over the person who has left them, but though the other person is not over the protagonist either, refuses to go back to them.

6. “She’s Gonna Break Your Heart”: One thing about Schaefer’s songs on the album is that they have very repetitive lyrics, which is really effective and works! This song is simple and has a clear message to someone (maybe the protagonist in the two earlier songs) that the girl they like will only break their heart. I don’t know if this is referring to one specific lady or a general misogynist message, but I’ll guess it’s the former. The song has some nice vocal harmonies, which gives the simple song a nice little touch, and another thing to get it stuck in your head. This is inspired by the Ramones, indeed.

7. “I Think About You During The Commercials”: This is the song with the reference to “The Hearse Song” of unknown origin. Ben sings “The worms are crawling in, the worms are crawling out, the worms are playing poker on my snout”; in the original the worms play pinochle. In the song “Last Night” on the Screeching weasel album emo, Ben again brings in this reference, this time the worms tap-dance on his snout! The song is probably the strongest song on the album lyrically, possibly also melodically. The song’s subject is also similar to “99” on Screeching weasel’s How to make enemies and irritate people, in which the protagonist replaces a past lover with 99 from the show “Get smart” and uses the TV as an escape from heartache. In “I Think About You During the Commercials”, he only thinks about her during the commercials, but she also drops by disguised as the girls of “Melrose Place”. I’m sure I could put in some psychoanalytical theory on this and complete this Carnival of Schadenfreude, but I’m gonna drop that. The second verse starts with a reference to “The Brain that Wouldn’t Die”, which is not only Ben Weasel’s live album from 2009, but an old movie and an episode of the Mystery science theater 3000. MST3K was about to play an important role in the history of the band. Their two last albums Invasion USA and Tarantula both mostly took their titles from the show and we ended up with getting brilliant songs as “Werewolf one”, “Teenage strangler”, “King dinosaur”, “Time chaser”, “Master Ninja” and “Crash of the moons”.

8. “Rehabilitated”: I’m not sure if this is originally a Foster song or a Schaefer song, Foster sings it on the live bonus track, but Schaefer sings it on the album. It’s a really great song! It’s about a troubled girl who has mental problems and drug problems, but now she’s rehabilitated and doing better. She’s like Cindy in “Cindy’s on methadone”, at least how one would hope that Cindy turns out. And the singer wonders if her parents let her listen to Black flag in the house anymore. The great use of tambourine in the song almost block out the rest of the percussion, which makes a really cool sound that you could hear on the two first Ramones albums. The backup vocals in the chorus almost make it sound like an oi! song.

9. “Plan 13”: A horror-esque song telling the stories of Sue, who is babysitting and then a killer is murdering both the kids of Lucy who is on a date making out to 50’s/60’s Doo wop star Dion and later gets murdered too. The song gives the feeling of 50’s and 60’ horror movies and has references to the lover’s lane and phone operators. I have no idea what “Plan 13” is, it could just be a reference to the bad luck number. The album also has another number reference, the “27” logo! This remains one of the biggest mysteries for the band. Screeching weasel also mentioned the number “27” a lot, their debut self-titled album had 27 songs on it, the song “Something Wrong” had “27” in it, and the band made a song called “27 Things I Wanna Do To You” as well as releasing an EP called “Formula 27”. The number is, however, because of the logo, mostly associated with the Riverdales. In spite of that a lot of fans link the number to this type of pop punk in general.

10. “Outta Sight”: This song continues the oldies theme that also fits the Archie comics theme and also continues the Schaefer repetitive lyrics theme, which goes well together. The lyrics to the song are mostly “Little girl, you’re outta sight”. It’s a pretty catchy song with handclaps in the bridge. It’s not really a standout track though.

11. “In Your Dreams”: I read in an interview that someone thought this song sounded like the Everly brothers. Even if they’re famous for writing songs about dreams, I’m not sure if I agree; I think it’s got more of a doo-wop sound to it than Everly brothers. The song is kind of like a lullaby and ends with the comforting voice of Ben Foster that the listener will be held, praised and watched over and that everything will be all right and sleep is near. It sounds like it could almost be sung to a child. It could also be a response to his earlier song with Screeching weasel “Don’t Turn Out the Lights” from My Brain Hurts, where a child-like protagonist is scared of the dark and isn’t able to sleep. This song would be a perfect end to the album.

12. “Hampton beach”: Like “Fun tonight” is kind of a meh opener, “Hampton beach” is also a meh closer. It’s not a very good song, and Schaefer’s least good song on the album. It’s probably a tribute to Rockaway beach, I think Hampton beach is in Chicago, and that ain’t Hawaii.

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Bonus track: “Two-headed Girl”: On the re-issue from 2006, an entire concert is part of the bonus tracks, including “Give it up” which ended up on Storm the streets. Other than that, there were four bonus tracks: “I’m a Vegetable”, “No Sense” the heartbreaking song about a girl traveling coast to coast and the protagonist that won’t forget her, “I Won’t Forget You” and “Two-headed Girl”. I think “Two-headed Girl” is the best one and kind of sounds like a movie. Foster sings “She doesn’t have any split personality/And she’s not a freak just because she’s in love with me”, it’s a sweet love song that could be taken literally or metaphorically. It also has always reminded me of Weezer’s “No One Else”.

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I definitely think this album holds up just as well as a lot of the classic Weasel albums, even if the opening and closing tracks aren’t their best. A lot of time you will listen to it and actually think you are listening to the Ramones, and if I’m gonna be honest most bands that try to sound like the Ramones fail miserably, but the Riverdales actually do it well! The next album is going to be Appetite for Adrenochrome by the Groovie Ghoulies.

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