By Ellen Eldridge
Nickelback surprises me with how controversial they’ve become lately. The protest against their scheduled Thanksgiving Day performance in Detroit seems far too overdramatic for what I always considered a pretty decent pop rock band. Front man Chad Kroeger and the rest of the band have not responded to the protests, but gracefully accepted the offer to play.
Opening with “This Means War” on the latest release Here and Now, Nickelback announce “You went and brought a knife to an all-out gunfight,” using typical descriptions in a song comparing relationships with war. But it’s radio rock and drives with the energy to power cars down the road on the way to work. I wouldn’t put a great deal of stock into powerful pop hits like those that Nickelback churns out, but in most cases I don’t turn off the radio either. This is a take-it-as-it-comes band. “Bottoms Up,” the second track, gets you home on a Friday evening, encourages you to squeeze into those sexy jeans, and hit the karaoke bars. Feel. Good. Music.
By the third track, “When We Stand Together,” I do start feeling a little sick to my stomach from the dance-like background beats strangely recalling those numbingly great ‘80s songs played as roller skaters concentrated as hard as possible on not falling down.
“Midnight Queen” showcases the guitar work and rips through the sickening dance feeling. Powerful pop rock here with just enough sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll to keep your parents away. “Gotta Get Me Some” continues the sex theme mating a groovy intro riff with lyrics rhyming “God Almighty” to “look at that body.” This is the kind of stuff you admit to your friends you really like a few beers deep at the local bar.
“Lullaby” hits the ballad nerve and speaks more to a personal level of connection. This song packs more punch with its sentiment, but smack in the middle of the album it gives the sense of settling. Better lullabies and better ballads exist, but there it is anyway. And it’s not badly done. “Everything I Wanna Do” has more of the same sort of thing one expects from mainstream bands like Buckcherry. The problem happens when the listener looks too deeply into the lyrics and stops just enjoying the ride.
Nickelback belongs in the mainstream. Hate them or love them, they rip some great riffs and they can make you queasy if you’re looking too hard for something more meaningful than a radio fling. Enjoy it. Don’t protest it. It’s new Nickelback.