The Ribeye Brothers: Bar Ballads... and Cautionary Tales
Honky-tonkin' psychedelic rock? Oh yes, boys and girls! And how these former Monster Magnets do it is priceless.
Psst! Are you listening? (Of course not you dolt, they're reading this!) Okay. Allow me to let you in on a little secret. Each month a huge, exhaustive list of albums up for review is sent out for contributors to pick and choose from. Even the most knowledgeable music hack will only recognize a good portion of the list, and there are some whose names just make you want to see what the heck they're all about. For me, the Ribeye Brothers are such a group. Sure, a name like that will probably create images of Hoss and Little Joe branding cattle or correcting some sort of injustice. But for these guys, it's all about the South, although it's more of a garage-ish Lynyrd Skynyrd mixed with some rockabilly and arrangements that make you want to shout "Yee Haw", watch Hee Haw, and break a bottle over someone's noggin.
The Ribeye Brothers say they have nothing to show you on, er, "Nothing to Show You", but their toe-tapping roots rock is honed thanks to the team of former Monster Magnet magnates: Tim Cronin singing and Jon Kleiman pounding the skins. It could be mistaken for Social Distortion's Mike Ness without the amps behind him, as they don't beat around the bush musically. What you hear is what you get. What they do give you, though, isn't exactly a series of rockabilly-tinged numbers that they could do in their sleep. Rather, they pushed the bar far higher by stretching back into the hazy psychedelic rock trumpeted by some thick keyboard moments. A great example of this is the quasi-Animals blueprint fuelling "Roberto Duran". And yes, it does hit you with hands of stone with its fantastic '60s pop punch and flair. The only thing separating this from being the Soundtrack of Our Lives is that lovable teddy bear tunic. Just as rollicking is the primitive guitar on "Buffalo" (not the city, but the gorgeous bison), which seems to be a CliffsNotes version of the Mooney Suzuki. The first of these that doesn't quite measure up is "We Became Snakes", a cross between the Handsome Family and Primus, as they bemoan the fact that someone has lost their job as a circus clown. Alas
The dichotomy between the garage and the front porch style is one of the keys to enjoying this record. And it isn't that hard to do given the strength of the moderately mid-tempo "From the Floor" that could have been recorded from the floor. Finally, the garage rock and country-meets-surf groove melds into the head-banging hoedown that is "Lonesome Rhodes" as Cronin preaches to the listening congregation that we are all his people, from no good necks to mouth breathers. This nugget is where things get really kooky, but in a joyfully fuzzed-out, rave-up kind of way that makes you want to start gnawing on a tambourine. After that they gently take you down with the heady "Turpentine", complete with some backwards lyrics.
Each song is fresh and creates its own little quirky-but-catchy spin, as does "Horn of Plenty". Although not having any horns or reeds in it, the song does possess a radio-friendly roadhouse swamp rock flavor throughout. However, there are a few songs that might tend to fall off the rails too quickly, as is the case with the b-side and rather monotonous "Find Yer Own" that's a cross between the Doors and Brian Jonestown Massacre. This is atoned for with parts one and two of what is dubbed "(Interlude) Nature's President". As the homestretch comes into view, the Ribeye Brothers give us the Roy Rogers-circa-"Happy Trails" vibe on "Death or Greyhound". It seems an odd one, but given the oddness of this rock-country-psychedelic album, it's right at home.