“Done my time / Paid my dues,” sings Brock Bentley of Goodbye Nova on the band’s latest album. This is no idle boast, as Bentley has been writing and performing since 2007, getting his start in Cedar City while he was still a student at Southern Utah University. Bentley’s ambition, experience, and skill have grown considerably since then, and “Just a Little Weather” reflects the work of a budding professional.
On the band’s Tumblr page, Bentley reveals that the inspiration for the band’s name came from a panel in a Silver Surfer comic. This not only provides some insight into the band’s ambition to be a galactic herald but is also the kind of story that is charmingly nerdy, which may also be an apt description of the music on the album.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of Bentley’s former instructors at SUU, and I am thanked in the liner notes of his last two albums. I’ve always been a bit bemused by this show of gratitude, and though I did on occasion offer some feedback on his writing, I can lay no claim to any of his innate talent. But it is a measure of Bentley’s graciousness that he thanks many of SUU’s English faculty in his notes (paying his dues, indeed).
That graciousness is also reflected in the songs here, all of them co-written with Tom Chandler, who also produced the album. Nearly all the songs express bright, positive themes, and many of the songs also reflect the drive of the performers. A cursory glance at the song titles (“Won’t Go Down without a Fight,” “Watch Me,” “Never Gonna Be Enough,” “I Came to Win”) reveals the hunger of an upcoming band. The music, too, is upbeat, and the pace rarely slows down. If anything,the songs can seem a bit too professional at times, even slick, and one craves a moment of rawness, with more emphasis on the music and a little less on its production.
But it is also hard to resist the album’s straightforward pop appeal. “Saturday Night & Everything’s Alright” is reminiscent of the kind of bubblegum pop that was common in the early ’70s with boy bands like the Bay City Rollers. The lyrics here (“We’re gonna go crazy” and “The fun’s after dark”) offer only the subtlest of hints of any kind of potentially transgressive behavior. This is music than one can imagine a preteen might listen to with ears wide open and imagination triggered.
This is also the kind of music that would fit well in the end credits of a family-friendly feature. Indeed, there are many movie soundtracks that could use a song like “Won’t Go Down without a Fight,” with its chorus, “I’m ready to go / I will risk it all / I’ll stand my ground.” Cue neighborhood kids bursting out of the theater, riding their bikes to the nearest 7/11 and overdosing on Slurpees.
There are more contemplative moments here, though, even these are couched as pop anthems. The title track, with its blasting keyboards and upbeat lyrics, is infectious enough that one might miss its therapeutic undertones: “Follow the light that’s inside you / It’s an anchor when you’re thrown again.”
OK, so we’re not exactly in Dylan territory here, but though I think Goodbye Nova could use a dash of cynicism and less processed vocals, it’s clear that Bentley has his eyes set on the lucrative world of professional songwriting, and there’s every indication here that he’s ready for bigger things. Until then, enjoy this offering from a local musician at the launching pad.