In an early 2020 interview with his hometown outlet Create Birmingham, veteran drummer, guitarist and singer/songwriter Les Nuby explained his desire to return from his extended jaunts in New York and L.A. and focus on a solo career after being the drummer for Verbena (which toured with the Foo Fighters and opened for R.E.M.), a touring guitarist with Idlewild and Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls and being the frontman for Holiday Gunfire.
As you engage in his long-awaited solo debut Clouded, you’ll quickly start to feel the inevitable lift of his unique swirl of edgy alt-rock intensity, shimmering and blistering guitars and overall shoegazing dreaminess in production and vocal approach. Nuby’s hop, skip and jump-along journey takes us from the feisty onslaught of jams like the first lead single “Never Falling Away” (a solemn promise to take us “to the end”) and “Fighting Sleep” to the stark, haunting, romantically longing acoustic trip “Hey Ivey” and the jangling, folk-rock anthem “Say Love.”
As you blister and groove, it might be good to keep in mind a quote from the interview. Nuby said, “Sometimes it’s like therapy, and sometimes it’s an argument. But both friction and communication usually end up creating something stronger.” Learning of that spirited creative battle might assist you as you try, as I did, to decipher his super cool yet abstract/inscrutable lyrics full of great poetic phrases in search of a coherent narrative flow.
Nuby’s vocals get a bit lost in the guitar shimmer on “OK Let’s Try,” but try to figure out what he’s saying anyway when he sings: “They are pulling switches/Lock it around you/To say you’d never dip your feet in the ocean/Like you’d want them to.” Ditto the slow seduction turned hard burning “Standing Still,” where he muses, “You were pushing back the cobwebs/To a clear blue sky/Ghosted all the others/Standing Still, now on the other side/Laughter is a weapon, until it breaks my heart/4 until 11.”
Then you check out the colorful yet blotchy and impressionistic cover art (for both the album and “Never Falling Away”) and realize that he’s all about creating poetic and musical impressions. Nuby emerges from a long career as a sideman with a burst of songwriting energy that dares us to enter and figure out where his mind is at now that he’s liberated his creative soul. It’s an immersion you won’t regret.