If Something Bad’s Happening were a short story, the protagonist would, at one point, look up to his mother and say, “I love you so much but I just can’t help but be afraid for you. I’m young now but you know I’ll get older and probably sad and more than likely hurt. But you know, it ain’t all that bad ‘cause you had to do the same thing. So, maybe I shouldn’t be afraid for you.” It’s an earnest sentiment that, in the end, is probably more true than any of the characters want to admit. Then, after some time has passed, and the protagonist has been hurt and a little sad, he’ll watch a car crash and know he was right. He’s been there.
I only say this because every song on Nuclear Rodeo’s new album is full of the enduring honesty that is only recognizable after a life of figuring shit out on your own. The sort of life that is saved by the little moments – sad or not. Maybe it’s a car crash or maybe it’s something like knowing how a movie is going to end. And I mean this not only in reference to Campbell DeSousa’s song writing, which is often nostalgic, but also in all the little moments. The little moments like when Campbell screams, “See what’s happening to me,” on “Hollywood,” or David Olson’s brilliantly cathartic beating of the toms on “You Get Your Reputation Based on What You Do.” When these moments happen, and happen often within a single work of art, it’s comforting. A sort of “I knew I wasn’t in this alone” thing.
The moment that made me stop and say, “Shit, I’m not the only one,” was in “Shawn Johnson, Iowa’s Goddess Girl (Don’t Give Up),” a tragic story of when dreams become expectation. Throughout the song we hear the story of a high school Olympic hero whose dream has become a burden, ending in the appeal to not give up, that we will all have our chance to do what we really love. Even if it takes a few tries to learn just what that is.
I’m not even going to mention the music, which is as tight as a group of longtime friends would make it; or the vocals, which only add to the earnestness; or the production, which is done very well. I’m not going to mention those things because, well, it wouldn’t matter to the story (remember, we’re using a short story as a metaphor here). Those things are moments or happenings which add to the story, but not the story. The story is an understanding – a different perspective of a different life. I feel comfortable saying If Something Bad’s Happening explores all those perspectives and explores them well.