Dark Horse



by Dave de Sylvia EMERITUS
November 19th, 2008 | 443 replies

Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The question remains, unanswered: who actually likes Nickelback?

A recent LA Times feature (yeah, yeah, I’ll get my coat...) on the rise of “flyover rock,” a title invented for the purposes of the article, tries (and fails) to answer a question that’s perplexed music fans for years but is impossible to answer without sounding like a complete snob: who actually likes Nickelback?

Leaders of the mainstream rock scene in the States by sales volume, as well as any other conceivable measure, the Canadian four-piece have subtly evolved over the years, gradually discarding the gruff Vedderisms of old for a more natural, melodic style. Tentative strides into the realm of country have been made, with the grungey acoustics of ‘Someday’ et al. seamlessly substituted for something a little more jangly, while frontman Chad Kroeger has even begun to sport something akin to a twang on tracks like ‘Never Gonna Be Alone’ from their latest LP, Dark Horse. But probably the most predictable development of all has been the increasingly overbearing presence of cock rock in the mix: where the band would, in the past, have explained away their heavier rock tendencies with token nods to Metallica and other universally-respected metal icons, Dark Horse sees the band come clean about their true influences, drafting in Def Leppard producer Mutt Lange for a much-needed injection of sleazeball sex.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s always been more or less understood that Chad Kroeger is a complete horndog, but it’s only recently, with the trailblazing success of ‘Crazy Bitch’ and ‘Get Stoned,’ that casual misogyny has become popular again on rock radio and safe territory for Nickelback to mine. ‘Something In Your Mouth’ kicks the album off with characteristic blunt force, telling the story (read: fantasy) of the stripper who just loves to tease (like there’s any other kind): “Tease them all while sucking on your thumb [...] 'Cause you look so much cuter with something in your mouth.” ‘Shakin’ Hands’ proceeds along similar lines, though the subject in this case is a high-class hooker who makes ”six figures workin’ three days a week” and ”didn’t make it this far by just shakin’ hands”. She made it this far by shaking something else! It’s never explicitly stated, but it’s also implied that she loves it. ‘S.E.X.’ is the closest Kroeger comes to actually saying something explicit, so it stands to reason that it’s the least explicit of the three named songs in terms of imagery, although he does wonder aloud if he’ll ever get to have an unnamed body part (we’re thinking asshole) under his tongue (why under?). We can only assume that she will love it, although it sounds uncomfortable.

From the opening bars of ‘Something In Your Mouth,’ Lange’s expansive arena rock production is a major factor in the album’s dynamic, with a booming, synthetic drum sound, gang vocals and the obligatory hand-clap percussion section recalling his former charges at their sugar-pouring best. The guitar riff sits somewhere between the country-funk of ‘Honky Tonk Badonkadonk’ and whatever squealy mosh riff Zakk Wylde happens to be hammering out at the time, while the stop-start chugga-cuhhga of ‘Burn It To The Ground’ bears more than a passing resembles to Pantera’s epic ‘Walk.’ The latter could easily be an outtake from Motley Crue’s 1994 self-titled (when they briefly beefed up with second guitarist/singer John Corabi), while ‘Next Go Round’ is reminiscent of the Crue’s similarly ill-fated (but inspired) sojourn into industrial metal, Generation Swine. There are few audible traces of the band’s post-grunge past, aside from the swampy picked-guitar patterns of druggie’s lament ‘Just To Get High,’ while the rest of the disc is solid pop-country, from the ever-optimistic Lonestar-like lead single ‘Gotta Be Somebody’ to the sweeping Nashville harmonies of ‘Never Gonna Be Alone.’

There’s no question about which side of the disc is the more interesting- sleaze beats manufactured sentiment any day- but ultimately it’s the country half that most people will pay attention to, and to that end there is very little to actively criticise. Nickelback have always had a flair for inoffensive MOR pop, and in truth there is very little to tell between songs like ‘Photograph’ and ‘Gotta Be Somebody.’ Cynical though it is, Nickelback have had to adapt, and adapt quickly, in order to remain on top of their game; they’ve always been a musically eclectic bunch, so there was scarcely any doubt they’d be able to handle the transition. The “down and out but searching for meaning” schtick Kroeger’s got going on is a necessary counterpoint to the crass misogyny that he boasts elsewhere on the album, but the price of such base-covering is that it’s hard to know what to believe and what not to believe. And so, the problem that plagues Dark Horse is the one that’s plagued Nickelback records for years: no matter how strong the musicianship and how infectious the melodies, it’s practically impossible to relate to any of it.

The question remains, unanswered: who actually likes Nickelback?

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user ratings (1444)
very poor
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • thatdudeud0ntknow (1)
    Oh boy, sex songs!...

    hoipolloi (1)
    Well, were you really expecting something better?...

    mark1991 (1.5)
    Nickelback aim to change the world, one bedpost at a time....

    MiK (2.5)
    Dark Horse lacks the innovation of Nickelback's previous efforts, but keeps the fans inter...

  • Zipzop5565 (4.5)
    In a world devastated by the most horrific of apocalyptic tragedies, one man will rise fro...

    Pagepage250 (5)
    I truly believe that Dark Horse is just one elaborate and very expensive shitpost....

    bastard (1.5)
    An album that tries so hard to sell albums and please everyone that it pleases nobody....

    TheDistantFuture (1)
    The Nickel is Back!...

  • Skybreaker (1)
    The worst thing to happen to music since Insane Clown Posse got a record deal...

    MrMcMusic (3.5)
    Plenty of classic Nickelback hits but some of the album feels less polished....

    Massimo7000 (3)
    Yeah, it's cliche, but obviously, people enjoy it, but just won't say it. How else can you...

Comments:Add a Comment 
November 20th 2008


This review made me giggle. I am pleased.

November 20th 2008


needs more negatives.

good review still.

November 20th 2008


Album Rating: 1.0

I'm not (overly) bitter and this is indeed a good review; it's clever, descriptive, and grammatically correct (!), but it is very conventional. There is nothing wrong with this, but perhaps in my defense, virtually all of these high profile releases (mudvayne, staind, disturbed, and this of course) get many of these technically sound write-ups, so I still can't see the wrong in just doing a silly one every so often at the very least for diversity sake-

Well any way, thanks for letting me waste your time.

November 20th 2008


Album Rating: 1.5

I should probably listen to this before rating it..but meh, it is nickelback after all.

Staff Reviewer
November 20th 2008


Loved this review. Hilarious stuff, I was cracking up the whole time, especially that entire third paragraph. Awesome concluding sentence, too (the "And so, the problem that plagues..." one).

virtually all of these high profile releases (mudvayne, staind, disturbed, and this of course) get many of these technically sound write-ups, so I still can't see the wrong in just doing a silly one every so often at the very least for diversity sake-

The problem with silly reviews is that they're either not taken very seriously (which affects how legitimate people view the reviewer) or that they don't actually say anything (which also affects how legitimate people view the reviewer). Both cases are ultimately useless. I know I write a lot, but I try to review holistically. Anything less than that seems half-assed.

November 20th 2008


We can only assume that she will love it, although it sounds uncomfortable.

Subtlety isn't Chad Kroeger's strong point.

November 20th 2008


The question remains, unanswered: who actually likes Nickelback?

I can safely say I've never met anyone who likes Nickelback. And I live in Canada, where their supposed popularity is its highest.

November 20th 2008


Go to a middle school in Canada, or just any middle school. You'll find that just about all of them are.This Message Edited On 11.19.08

November 20th 2008


now john...

Captain North
November 20th 2008


...Yeah, a fair amount of people actually do like Nickelback. And to be honest, this review reads like it should be higher than 2.5, but you've made your judgement before you listened and decided Nickelback don't deserve higher, because its cool to not like them.

Mind you I'm yet to listen to this, but it doesn't seem half bad. At least a 3. Probably at most too, because they ARE a little too inoffensive and feelingless.

November 20th 2008


I honestly don't mind Nickelback. Although, their sound has pretty much been recycled since the days of Silver Side Up. A few other influences thrown in, but it's not much different. = /

November 20th 2008


The question remains, unanswered: who actually likes Nickelback?

A friend of mine loves them -_-;

November 20th 2008


He likes them, but does he like them?

November 20th 2008


just an annoying band overall

November 20th 2008


iluvatar would be pennywise to get his nickelback

shit band

November 20th 2008


I saw an ad for this on the tv and gave it the finger. Not in a Chad Kroegery sense.

November 20th 2008


Yeah nobody actually likes Nickelback for their music. My friend was tapping his toe to "Rockstar", but that's about all I've seen.

November 20th 2008


Horiffic. 0/5

November 20th 2008


Yeah, if 0/5 were possible Nickleback would definitely be the band to get it, haha. I know a few people that are really into them, but for the life of me I could never figure out why. I guess if it's all you know of or it's the extent of the genre that you understand, then....that's it but Nickleback?...Shit.

November 20th 2008


Best song title ever - "I Would Come For You"


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