The singing-songwriting team of all-star Jersey drummer Ray Kubian and Brooklyn indie folk-rocker Alexis Moon form the new two-piece Naughty Clouds, whose debut LP, “Everything’s Hard,” is a treasure chest of garage-rockin’ nuggets.
When I was 19, Vinnie Daniele of Cats on a Smooth Surface told me, “Don’t ever get married. Music and marriage don’t mix,” a truth by which many local rockers can attest. But I’m glad to see that Naughty Clouds’ soon-to-be-married singing-songwriting team of drummer Ray Kubian and guitarist Alexis Moon prove that theory wrong not only personally but musically, particularly on the Makin Waves Song of the Week, “Strong Hearts (‘I’ Is a Word of the Past),” the standout track on the new two-piece’s debut album, Everything’s Hard. The couple’s duet, which looks at selfless love from both interpersonal and societal viewpoints, is a strong duet that makes me wish there was even more vocal interplay between Kubian’s bright, sandy tenor and Moon’s dark, bluesy vox. Throughout, they repeat the subtitle as if to share their sentiments about how two become one in marriage. Given the toll that music takes on most marriages, I’m glad to see that their forthcoming march down the aisle is working out.
Like much of Everything’s Hard, including two versions of the exceptional title track, the sparse, bluesy, lo-fi two-piece also make a societal statement with “Strong Hearts”: “I is a word of degree (let’s kill it). Revolutions aren’t free (but we will it).” Those lines are sung in a nice counter harmony between Kubian and Moon.
Social conscience makes up much of the eco-minded Everything’s Hard, including the title track, Kubian’s lament about the environment coupled with his joy about getting high. This is an anthem for anarchists who want to burn everything down and start over again as an agricultural, money-free economy. Seemingly suggesting a modern-day Garden of Eden, the couple philosophizes that we work best as a society when we live off the land and make living easy by simply eating, sleeping and loving until we die. The simple jangly song features a great chorus — “Everything’s hard/I don’t know why/Living is easy/Eat, sleep, love until you die” — that sandwiches a great bridge: “I started waking when my body said rise/Clocks on the wall are another disguise/My miracle is I sleep when I’m tired/The old man knows just when to retire/Everything’s hard/We make it so, but digging in the dirt is all we need to know.”
Of the two versions, I prefer the “Nice” one, which says “love” in the chorus rather than the f-bomb in the “Naughty” take because it works better with a message that would require a great deal of love to come to fruition.
In addition to Naughty Clouds’ strong social conscience, the best about Everything’s Hard is Moon’s sassy, sexy, sultry vocals on the majority of the other tracks. A veteran of such great Jersey bands as Motel Shootout, Mars Needs Women, and True Love, Kubian is on the road a lot with Electric Six, Dean Ween Group and poet Paul Muldoon. When he is, she has plenty to do as a great solo act, but I’d love to see her do a vintage soul and blues ensemble along the lines of Shady Street Show Band or Eryn O’Ree & the Whiskey Devils. Her voice is perfect for that, as evidenced on such Naughty Clouds tracks as the opening garage-rocker “When UR a Drag,” the bluesy “No Remorse” the carefree “Ice on Tree,” and the escapist “Mountains.”
Also eco-minded, “Ice on Trees” boasts great lyrics: “What I know is the sun is good and the sky’s my friend and the Earth’s my Mom” and “I’ve been known to walk and walk and walk for miles with no reason/You get to doin’ that long enough, you get to know the change of season.” They sandwich a great chorus: “I’ve got no use for cryin’/It only says what’s been said/I’ve got no use for dyin’ until I’m finally dead/I’ve got no use for feelin’/There’s nothin’ that can top knowin’/Who I am and who you are/That’s all that I could want.”
See Naughty Clouds on May 18 at Pino’s, Highland Park, with Mr. Payday and the Pixies tribute band Gigantic; May 19 at Bryan Bruden’s Summer Kickoff Party at Asbury Park Yacht Club, with The Isomniacs, and June 12, Bowery Electric, New York City.
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Bob Makin is the reporter for www.MyCentralJersey.com/entertainment and a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.