Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Review: Nickelback - Here and Now

 Without any question of a doubt, Nickelback are the internet's most hated band. Music websites, meme websites, Hell, even Change.org created an online petition to stop them performing at a Detroit Lions vs. New York Packers American football game which was signed by over 20,000 people. So it's clear that the world wide have had one or two negative things to say about the Canadian hard rock quartet. Personally, they've never bothered me too much and I've listened to a fair amount of their stuff without any sort of negativity, but I can see why many would have a problem with them. Musically and structurally, things get pretty repetitive after a while and I don't think I could ever buy more than one album by them. They're also largely hated because they've made some bad decisions in the past. Releasing Rockstar, one of the worst songs ever heard to mankind as a single, which then climed to the top of the charts was not a good move. Beyond that, their music stays formulaic, repetitive and crafted especially for drive-time radio. Just like on their seventh album, Here and Now.

 The sad thing about this album is a recurring feature in which the beginning of many songs carry with them a promise that they are going to be songs that will break the mould and then plunge back into monotony. Take opener This Means War for example. The intro has a real buildup which actually transcends into a fairly gripping grunge riff. The initial excitement with this is then quickly dashed as Chad Kroeger begins singing and Nickelback become the U2 of grunge in their blandness and dullness. From there, we are treated to a selection of songs that are what we've been hearing from Nickelback from a while now.
 There's nothing truly spectacular about them. Bottoms Up and Holding on to Heaven are songs that sound perfect for radio stations to play to justify that they play rock music, or to make things worse they will state these songs to be their "metal" songs and play these tracks alongside some stuff from Staind's self-titled album. Lead single When We Stand Together features some very strange vocal styles in the chorus from Kroeger and in my words, "weird" translates as "country influenced". But the Southern American attitude of Nickelback's music makes this something expected, so the inclusion of such an influence will hardly bowl anyone over in surprise, which judging by the song overall, seems to be an intention it had in mind.
 At the same time, there isn't anything on this album that could make it viewed as truly worthy of all our despise. Some riffs manage to be quite catchy. Midnight Queen features a fairly rough and classy hook. You almost forget it's part of this album, with the exception of the cringe-worthy lyrics which are trademark Nickelback lyrics. With such lyrical gems as "I'm in a bar full of bikers and a handful of junkies/ It's a fifty-fifty chance that they're planning that they're planning to jump me." and "Well, she walks like a model and she talks like a trucker/ Doesn't want a lollipop, but she showed us a sucker," Midnight Queen has clearly put decent music over any sense of class or decency.
 So, because Here and Now isn't lovable or worthy of genuine hate in any sense (apart from closer Don't Ever Let it End, where they've actually achieved what many thought impossible and made a song worse than Rockstar!!! Congratulations on achieving a new low guys!) so it just sits perfectly on the line of blandness and being easily forgettable.
 Really, the idea of expecting anything else would be preposterous. I can't fully complain about it's repetitiveness though. There are plenty bands I love who have been accused of releasing the same thing over and over again; AC/DC, Slayer, Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch etc. but at least these bands and their ilk still manage to create a real sense of energy and passion with each release. Nickelback have always sounded tired, sloppy and emotionless from day one and Here and Now is no exception.

 Nickelback's Here and Now is out now via Roadrunner.

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