A LEANER, MEANER CUT OF RIBEYE

slim-tim-cronin21Alone in an idealized Red Bank of the mind, Tim Cronin models a new look and readies a new edition of The Ribeye Brothers for a Memorial Weekend wingding at The Dub.

By TOM CHESEK

It’s the first question on the mind of anyone who happens into the English Plaza entrance of Jack’s Music Shoppe, where Tim Cronin “steers the back of the firetruck” from his perch near the posters, the listening kiosk and the certified pre-owned vinyl.

The answer, of course, is NO — as in “no, this is NOT a register.” But if there’s time for a followup, the answer might be YES — as in why YES, I did lose a couple of DJ milk crates’ worth of weight, or as he puts it, “I’ve gone from morbidly obese, to not so morbid.”

Fans of the Ribeye Brothers will be relieved to know that the beloved frontman for the Red Bank-based swamp/ stomp/ “detached garage” band hasn’t shed more than 60 pounds out of any sickness, addiction to Enerjets or ill-advised hunger strike keyed to the Mets closing above .500 this season. Rather, it’s as simple and as effective as a dietary regimen that says nix to the butter, bacon and salt — with a big boost from “sugarless gum, black coffee and tons of hot sauce.”

This is all pertinent because, when the latest edition of the Brothers Ribeye returns to The Dublin House for a holiday-weekend hullabaloo on Sunday evening, May 29, the band will be serving up a sound and a set that’s as meaty and beaty as ever, while arguably just a healthy bit less big and bouncy.

ribeyebrothersThe irrepressible sons of Mrs. Ribeye, Jon Kleiman and Tim Cronin, as they appeared during the millennium of Beatle suits and Mudhoney flannels.

Together in various shapes, forms and fighting weights since 1997, the Ribeyes coalesced as a side project for two members of Monster Magnet — Cronin, the BullGod band’s vocalist in its earliest incarnation, and former drummer turned guitarist Jon Kleiman. Finding their own musical inclinations underrepresented in the primary band’s sonic pallette, the Cronin/Kleiman cooperative donned vintage suits and recorded If I Had a Horse…, a set whose overriding concept was best expressed in “D.W.I.,” “Drinkin’ and Stinkin,” and “Swagger Turns to Stagger.”

It was the Ribeyes (with the Brothers nucleus joined by some 20 to 25 bandmates over the years) who would inaugurate a new era of live music on the center-lanes bandstand at Asbury Lanes; the Ribeyes who would perform everywhere from the Cabaret strip club in Eatontown (“not a bad night”) to Raceway Park in Old Bridge (“a bad night”); the Ribeyes who would even be invited on an all-expense-paid jaunt to old Blighty.

Along the way, the boys from Red Bank picked up a few fervent fans — some even with famous faces, like Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall, and occasional Jack’s drop-in Bruce Springsteen (who showed up for a recent Lanes gig in hopes of hearing “Lonesome Rhodes,” the band’s furious evocation of cinema cult class-act A Face in the Crowd).

“He was cool enough to come to the show,” explains Cronin in an attempt to downplay the sort of imprimatur that many a lesser career has hinged upon. “I don’t want to trade on that, though. It ain’t right.”

With two other full-length releases to their credit, Bar Ballads and Cautionary Tales (“the label went out of business”) and New Ways to Fail (“haven’t finished paying that one off yet”) — as well as a 7-inch and various cuts on tributes to Alice Cooper, Devo and the Moptops — the current Ribeyes roster (Cronin, Kleiman, ex-Monster Magnet bassist Joe Calandra, guitarist Brent Sisk and returning drummer Neil O’Brien) has the honor of heralding the summer-season sweet spot at The Dub, with the hallowed and slightly haunted public-house on Monmouth Street expanding its atmosphere full-force into the front courtyard and rear Temple Bar.

“We’ve got a bunch of new stuff together – enough for a whole new album,” says Cronin of the new lineup and its heretofore unheard twin-guitar attack. “It’s easier to get a good sound out of two guitars, although I wouldn’t dignify what we do by calling them ‘arrangements’.”

As self-effacing as Cronin can be about his band and its lush/ loner/ loser/ layabout themes, the band has displayed the confidence and the savvy to outlast scores of contemporaries in the riptides of the recording industry, with a mastery of the sixties garage template and more ways to spin a booze-basted yarn than anyone this side of the big Bukowski.

Check the band’s MySpace for news on upcoming projects (including a couple of pending split-single releases); check the Dublin House at about 7:30 p.m. for the first of the band’s Sunday evening sets, and bookmark Cronin’s near-daily updates to his devastating diary, succinctly entitled ugh!.

A full length version of this article appears on Tom Chesek’s new site, Upper WET Side.