In each of their four albums, The Riverdales approach their self-stated genre of "Ramones-core" with the same attitude and knowledge: they are the best in the business. The field has gotten more crowded since 1995, when Ben Foster and Dan Schafer released their first Riverdales record. That record was a smash, and could be considered 'unparallelled' were it not for the utter brilliance of the two additional records that followed, 1997's Storm the Streets and 2003's Phase 3. Where the original record gave the Riverdales plenty of cred (as if these two well known veterans needed that), the two follow ups provided their live set with a full, rich collection of punk hits to rival any classic live band of this era.

Blood on the Ice, Riverdale Stomp, Countdown, Dyna-Mole, Party @ the Beach, I Believe in You and Me and I don't wanna go to the Party are just some of the songs that make Storm the Streets and Phase 3 soooo good, and worthy follow ups to the genius that is the first record.

Five years after the release of Phase 3, the Riverdales have returned with another instant classic, Ivasion USA, having traded the art of creating the song title for the art of creating songs based on titles taken from the archives of MST3K. What fun! Let's take a look one song at a time...

Agent for H.A.R.M.
Great way to star a record. Maximal aural energies complimented by the silken tones of Dan Schafer. He builds the momentum by repeating the "I won't give up!" vocal line until he brings it to a point where he can send his voice into a whole other register.. "I won't give UP!"

Gemini Man
Ben follows up track one with some quality lead vocals of his own, with Mr. Schafer providing solid backing..."18 wheels on the ground... you can't stop me cause I'm on a roll."

Heart out of Season
Mellowing down for the third track, the Riverdales turn to their tried and true method of punk rock melodeering, with a ballad for the ages, reminiscent of other Riverdales classics. If you've never heard the song, you can likely imagine Dan singing out "Tonight, tonight, our world sighs...Tonight, tonight, we'll say goodbyes... Tonight, tonight, my heart is out of season" without having heard it. Still it is worth the listen, as this is definitely the strongest of the mellower tracks on the record.

Red Zone Cuba
Back to the bop on track 4, kicking out with what is likely the hardest track so far on the record. Weasel takes the mic again, providing vocals which highlight one of the best parts of this record: the WAY the boys sing. Ben lets out a "Red Zone Cuba GO" throughout the song, but on a couple of occasions he sings GO like a man possessed. Possessed with a spirit of clever iggy-esque theatrics, that is.
The boys maintain the tag team vocal approach here, with Vapid back in the saddle. "What is he saying?" your mom might ask from the driver's seat as she takes you home from soccer tryouts... "He wants to watch you squirm, mom."

Prince of Space
This one maintains the energy, whilst also presenting us with a Riverdales staple: the spoken word lyric welded to the rock behind it! "You think I'm a bum baby? Is that what you think? I'm some kind of bum?" It only gets better from there.

Rocketship X-M
Back to the mellower groove on this track, this song could certainly serve as the "hit single" on this record, were the Riverdales attempting to achieve a certain level of commercial success they generally seem to avoid (Angus aside ;) Also, one of the lengthier tracks on the record, this comes in at just under 3 minutes. Man, is Dan Schafer NOT one of the premiere vocalists of our time?

King Dinosaur
This song might as well be on every Riverdales release ever. Take away the specific lyrics, and it probably is. This is by no means a bad thing. This song is the Riverdales doing what it is they do best: hard driving, guitar driven, drive shaft punk rock. As has been mentioned, the lyrics and song titles of this record are in each case taken from old Sci-Fi B-movie titles, in order to give the boys a backdrop of inspiration for creating the grooves that make up the album. The lyrics, while referencing the titles, are rarely, though occasionally, about the movies themselves. This was employed due to a general sense of writer's block and a desire to create a certain ambiance around the record as a whole. You can see this idea falling off the cliff of failure in the wrong hands, but the Riverdales are very much the right hands.
Castle of Fu Manchu
"In the castle of Fu Manchu the emperor's in the nude, and I need to break out!" need I say more? This song is good.

Time of the Apes
To me, this song does two things which would seem to be mutually exclusive. First, it seems to be the most likely candidate to potentially inhabit a Screeching Weasel record instead of "Invasion USA." At the same time, it comes off to me as the most Ramones-esque of the group.

Atomic Brain
Just another great song with fun vocals and top notch vocals. Vapid is just sooo good at pushing the limits of his voice to places that leave the listener simply dumbfounded. "...In my atomic brain!"

Crawling Eye
This is another prime candidate for a Screeching Weasel record, though it fits in quite nicely here, of course. Anytime Ben takes the mic, it is difficult NOT to sound like a SW song. Still, the bands have always overlapped just so nicely in a punk rock ven diagram of goodness. This record is no exception, nor is this song.

Teenaged Strangler
The new Eminem record is pretty good rap record, and at some point I may review it as such. One problem I have with that record is the absurd lengths he goes to present himself as a murderous villain, complete with violent visual imagery of blood and blood lust. This song makes me just a mite uncomfortable for similar reasons. In the end, a song about spending your teenaged years secretly strangling the girls of your town to death just rings of misogynist objectification, for some reason. It maintains a modicum of respectability here, due to the fact that it is clearly based on an old b-movie of the same name, and therefore just invites the subject matter upon itself. Also, it harkens back, thematically and musically, to the excellent song Plan 13 from the Riverdales eponymous debut of 14 years ago. Still, it gives me a bit of the heebie jeebies, rocking out to a song about murdering girls. That being said, this song has the best vocal line of the record, and likely one of the best vocal lines of all time. Schafer sings the line "I am a teenage strangler, lurking in (ah-in) the shadows, yeah." Two things about this: first, every source I found on the internet for these lyrics quotes the line as "looking in the shadows" but to me that makes a lot less sense than "lurking" so I'm gonna go with "lurking." Second, the way that Dan Schafer sings that "ah-in" is so unique and piercing as to make me wanna stop the song mid track and just listen to that 2 second piece of genius over and over again.
Werewolf One
This, the last song on the record, is in many ways the most melodic of all. The chord progression is aces, with a solid chorus and really, really great vocals from Ben.

I have read it elsewhere, but I believe it to be true as well: this record showcases Ben and Dan at the absolute height of their vocal prowess. Each song is sort of better than the last, and when they hit on all cylindars, they really, really hit. The clever, aforementioned vocal tricks employed in Teenage Strangler, Red Zone Cuba, and throughout the record are subtle and unique, and highlight the fact that these guys not only know what they are doing, but they have known what they are doing for a long, long time. The songwriting is as strong as ever, and the production is powerful as well. Buy this record. Go to a Riverdales show if they are ever playing within 200 miles of your home, and consider yourself very, very lucky to inhabit a universe in which the Riverdales are a band.