Review Summary: Chad Kroeger just does not. fucking. get. it.
There’s something to be said of a band that’s so hated that people are, as I type this, collectively gathering to protest their half-time show at the upcoming Packers vs. Lions annual Thanksgiving game. At this point in time almost 54,000 of the desired 75,000 people have signed this petition, boldly exclaiming their outrage and doing everything in their power to disassociate Detroit with the name ‘Nickelback’. Any normal lot of guys would take this staggering backlash as a pretty obvious sign that they’re not welcomed by many, but Chad Kroeger and co. aren't your normal lot. Kroeger’s response - or lack thereof - to this is nothing short of hilarious. Choosing to not speak much on the topic, Kroeger had just this to say: "When you play a Nickelback show, I mean, there is every range of person that you could possibly imagine on the face of the earth [in the audience], and you couldn't peg one on the street to save your life... I think we can all pick out a Slipknot fan, but it's tough to pick out a Nickelback fan, because they're all so different." Well, sh
it, Chad - way to not make sweeping generalizations and unwittingly target another band in doing so. I guess that means that Nickelback fans can’t be picked out because they don’t adhere to a particular image, and, well, because there are so many of them.
None of this matters though, because Kroeger has all of us haters and “people who take music too seriously” figured out. Not long ago he retorted to criticisms about their music by boldly claiming that all of the “Hipsters and all of those kids who want to be into whatever the new, cool music is that makes them feel good won’t be into Nickelback”. Right. Well, I think the most important question is: how imprudent can a person be before they come to the realization that they’re not as special as they’d like to think? Hundreds, nay, thousands have torn apart their previous albums, the band was booed and stoned off of a stage while performing in Portugal, and are now being suppressed by upwards of 50,000 people. Still, their resolve seems stern and completely unfazed. Don’t be confused though: this isn’t the undying conviction of a band purporting to progress and continue any kind of musical direction. Nah, Kroeger said it best himself in a recent video interview: “We don’t take ourselves seriously, at all”. And much like on previous albums, that brutally honest statement is laced in every single second of Here and Now
. Nickelback’s injection of off-putting sexual “metaphors”, like this gem: “She's gonna lick my pistol clean/She's got a dirty mouth/Tastes so clean with every taste of me'' (how subtle) are just crude and mind-numbingly transparent. Dumbing down rock music even more and, better yet, forcibly trying to sell us this adolescent blend of misogyny and odes to alcoholism, Here and Now
isn’t just a bad
album - it’s irrevocably offensive.
Now, some of you may be thinking: “Surely he’s laying this on too thick.” and it’s a legitimate notion. Are these artists whom so many of us claim to loathe (Justin Bieber, Black Eyed Peas, et al) actually as bad as we make them out to be, or are we clinging to prejudice? Nickelback suck, sure, but we’ve been anything but reluctant to jump on the hate-train. But ultimately a lot of what they’ve done in the past has been tame, harmless (albeit terrible) mainstream rock. However, this time around Nickelback focus on themes so abstruse, with messages so inescapably offensive, that they beg the question: What the hell were they thinking? Back in 2009 Kroeger and company realized that sexist themes and party-rock anthems were once more in style and decided to capitalize on these by making Dark Horse
. It seems that these superficially chauvinistic ideals appealed to the group, because Here and Now
is pretty much a carbon copy of Dark Horse
‘This Means War’ opens the album in typical Nickelback fashion, ie: repetitive guitar chords, dim-witted drumming, and Kroeger’s raucous vocals. It’s a forerunner for the drab, uninspired mainstream rock to come (surprise) but it also isn’t anywhere near as bad as the tracks that proceed it. Keeping to its namesake, ‘Holding On To Heaven’ is the album’s cliche fairy-tale sentiment where we see Kroeger get in touch with his, uh, feelings: “Every moment I’m with you it’s like I’m holding on to heaven”. Bless his heart. Contradicting this is “Midnight Queen” - the fist-pumping bar song that pays respect to a handful of themes ranging from pointless bar fights with biker gangs to oral sex with a slutty waitress. Similarly, “Gotta Get Me Some” revolves around the idea of using women as objects and has that incorrigible ‘rock star’ motif. It’s kind of funny, really: their 2007 hit ‘Rock Star’ purports to expose this cliche, but they focus on this far too much here for it to simply be satirical. A lot of these songs, like the touched upon “Midnight Queen” and “Holding On To Heaven”, are completely conflicting, serving no purpose to portray any coherent theme or direction for the band, and are littered with painfully simple guitar chords. Even more bothersome is the shift from the shamelessly self-involved drinking song “Bottoms Up” to “When We Stand Together”, a song about the advocacy of conservation and working together for - listen to this - world peace. These two are pretty jarring when played in tandem; one being a stupid alcohol-induced mess and the other an ecstatic plea for change. These ideas are strung together so carelessly that it comes across as contrived - something to rouse a crowd and make their fans happy more than to serve as something important they wrote for themselves.
So in the end, Kroeger’s comment about Nickelback not taking their music seriously is an honest reflection of the position they find themselves in. This animosity towards them, this dull record that rehashes ideas, all of it is because of a lack of passion and direction. What Nickelback - knowingly - represents is this movement that many rock acts are making towards vapidity. You could lift any one of these songs (barring the obvious sexual/drug themes) and put them on any one of their records. As a singer/songwriter, Kroeger has done absolutely nothing to make Here and Now
a focused record: the lyrical themes are embarrassingly pedestrian, the guitar chords are boring and repetitive, and so on and so forth. Here and Now
, much like “When We Stand Together’’'s humanitarian message, is forced and ultimately empty. And now, seven albums in it’s more obvious than ever that talent completely eludes them. They’ve been making the same record for 15 years and clearly have no desire to branch out and change things up even a little. Nickelback will simply never learn, and Chad Kroeger just doesn’t seem to get it.