Let’s Rank the Riverdales Albums Just For Fun
Anyone who knows me knows that I am an unabashed fan of all things Screeching Weasel, and that most certainly extends to the Riverdales, a side project that’s been as on again/off again as Ben Weasel’s main band. The band sadly called it quits in 2011, and odds are slim for yet another reunion. I love a good album ranking and I couldn’t find one for the Riverdales so what the hell? I’ll do one myself.
The hard point about rankings with bands as good as the Riverdales is that there has be a “worst” record. Ranking dead last implies that a record is bad, but that’s not the case here. The Riverdales debut record came shortly after Screeching Weasel broke up for the eleventeenth time, described as a “Ramones, golden oldies” type of band. That’s most definitely what you get here, with a few small tweaks here and there, such as trading off vocals every other song. Hundreds of imitators were spawned by this record, birthing the punk subgenre of “Ramonescore,” a label that bands who you’re better off not listening to give themselves when they have nothing original to say.
So why is this one last? Because with very few exceptions, a band’s first album is their worst. They’re still trying to figure out who exactly they are. Granted, the three members had played together for years in Screeching Weasel, but these were different kinds of songs than them. In my opinion this album went a little too close to Ramones worship, resulting in a good record that frankly doesn’t age that well. After hearing what this band turned into, it’s hard to go back to this one with any sort of frequency.
Highlights: Back to You, I Think About You During The Commercials, Not Over Me, She’s Gonna Break Your Heart
4. Storm the Streets
Two years makes a huge difference, and after a short tour opening for none other than Green Day, the Riverdales returned with a considerably better sophomore effort with some unfortunately thin-sounding production. Where 1995’s self-titled debut gave us a dozen good, catchy pop-punk tunes with several throwaways, Storm The Streets served up almost nothing but hits. One this record they shy away from the overly Ramonesy stuff, the subject matter is still dumb and silly, but there’s a little more of a mean streak in it than you hear on the first record. This one would rank higher if not for forgettable tracks like “Riverdale Stomp,” “Give It Up” and “I Am Not a Freak.” Still a great album, though.
Highlights: Blood On The Ice, I Don’t Wanna Go To The Party, Make Way, Mental Retard
3. Invasion USA
I don’t know what it is about this record, but it just doesn’t work for me. I don’t really like the way it sounds, and there’s of songs that I’d consider filler. After a six year layoff (another breakup) between records (well, kinda, but we’ll get into that), I thought this record was a bit of a letdown.
So why is it ranked higher than two other records that I said I liked a whole lot? Simple: the highs on this one are worlds higher than the highs on Storm The Streets and the self-titled album. This is the first record where they wrote from Mystery Science Theater episodes (they’d basically grab a set of cool sounding movie titles and then write songs from that, you can read the full process in this interview), a trend they’d continue for the rest of their existence (one more record). Let’s be clear: I love A LOT of this album, but the thin-sounding production reminded me of what I didn’t like about Storm The Streets.
Highlights: Gemini Man, Heart Out of Season, Prince of Space, King Dinosaur, Werewolf One
2. Phase 3
So, this is a weird one. It first came out in 2003, after the Riverdales got back together after another Screeching Weasel breakup. It came out on some record label that no one had ever heard of (or have heard from since) and the printing looked cheap as hell (the photos on the back seriously looked like they’d been printed by an early 2000’s cheap printer and the cover was literally just a red background with a logo), but the songs were solid.
But, the record was just off. I don’t know if it was the mastering, but it sounded weird. Kinda hollow. If I was ranking this version of the record, it would have swapped spots with Invasion USA, but they reissued it in 2009 in a very different form.
First off, the art and packaging were greatly improved. Secondly, it was remixed and remastered, resulting in a considerably better sound. It’s really a tossup between this and #1 for the best sounding record. They also went back and finished five songs from those sessions that didn’t make the cut for the album, and to top it all off, they even resequenced it. All of these changes ended up making this one a very strong contender for the number one spot. Out of seventeen tracks, only two probably should have been cut (A very by the numbers “Party at the Beach” and “Wait It Out,” a tune that Ben originally gave to The Lillingtons for their second album. It wasn’t that great of a song when they did it, it’s only mildly better here). This record’s a rare case of an artist George Lucasing their work and it actually being the better for it.
Highlights: A.W.O.M., Last Stop Tokyo, I Believe In You And Me, and basically everything else but the two I mentioned
There’s no two ways around it: this is a perfect album. The art is not only awesome, it’s one of the coolest album covers I’ve ever seen. There’s not a single unneeded song on here. The sequencing is great, each side is a very different experience. As I said in the last spot, the record sounds amazing. It’s full, the guitars sound great, it’s perfectly mixed. There’s absolutely nothing bad about this album except for the fact that it’s short and they broke up again shortly after they released it. There’s a good reason that this is one of my favorites albums of all time.
Highlights: the whole goddamn thing.