• Riverdales
  • Riverdales (Lookout!) 1995 

Though it could certainly be seen as an affront to the real thing, a generation landslide of devoted Ramones clone bands has emerged in the ’90s, each replicating the divine roar and joyful idiocy of the brudders’ late-’70s punk-pop to the extent of the members’ ardent ability and interpretive songwriting acumen. Oddly, several of them are side projects of other bands, which makes the tribute all the more implicitly condescending. The Hanson Brothers are NoMeansNo’s hockey interpolation of the concept; Chicago’s Riverdales are three alumni of the temporarily defunct Screeching Weasel (who once recorded a version of the Ramones’ first album in its entirety). Benefiting here from the mixdown mettle of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, the trio has the surging rhythm-guitar roar down cold, applying it enthusiastically to a dozen original songs that pull close enough to classic Ramones vehicles to chance a legal scrape. While using nothing but road-tested chord patterns, the Riverdales add a few lyrical ideas (“Not Over Me” and “She’s Gonna Break Your Heart” visit an old romantic pop tradition alien to the Ramones; “I Think About You During the Commercials” is couch tater genius). Still, bassist/singer Dan Schafer (Danny Vapid in SW), guitarist/singer Ben Foster (aka fanzine scrawler Ben Weasel) and drummer Dan Sullivan (SW’s Dan Panic) make a point of using the reserved girl’s name (Judy) and the secret word (“lobotomy”) — both in the same song — and recycling such standard topics as mental health (“Wanna Be Alright”). When all is said and done — and it only takes a hair over a half-hour to sing it and do it — the Riverdales swallow their pride and pay generous homage that rocks like crazy. Gabba gabba!

[Ira Robbins]

See also: Queers, Screeching Weasel