Few bands have drawn more derision than Alberta Canada’s arena rockers Nickelback. Despite enduring years of snide scorn the band has proven markedly resilient, producing a remarkable five back-to-back platinum albums and a string of hit singles. Having seemingly exhumed every last fume of gas in the straight faced power chord driven rock engine, Nickelback appeared to find renewal with 2006’s runaway hit single “Rockstar”. A simple but effective track that suggested, after years of evidence to the contrary, that Chad Krueger may in fact have a sense of humour and a capacity for self-parody.
Unfortunately, in the years since that breakthrough it’s been very much business as usual for Nickelback and 2011’s Here And Now represents continuation as opposed to rejuvenation. Starting with a series of vaguely up-tempo offerings, Nickelback attempt to supply some beefy exhilaration, unfortunately any sense of excitement is lost in the plodding weight of Nickelback’s tired chords and Kroeger’s contrived lyricism. Far from an adrenaline rush “This Means War”, “Bottom’s Up” and “When We Stand” feel tired, and painfully predictable.
There’s a cosy comfort to be found in Nickelback’s mild anguish and “Lullaby’s” paint-by-numbers uplift, sadly it’s the kind of comfort destined to coax listeners into the type of comatose stupor that leads to road traffic accidents. Still, a tiresome dirge is certainly an improvement over the painful cringes that greet “Kiss It Goodbye”. The premise is tried and tested, the search for fame corrupts and degrades, but it remains a fertile ground for intrigue and innovation. Kroeger, however, sees an opportunity to unleash a series of trite clichés; “Hollywood Is Plastic”, “Integrity For Sale” and “East Coast Takes The Cocaine, West Coast Marijuana”.
Compared to fearsome “Welcome To The Jungle” or bitter parable “Like A Rolling Stone”, “Kiss It Goodbye” is a laughing stock that verges on the flat out insulting. Oddly, Kroeger appears to relish the fate of the wide-eyed girl who leaves her hometown in search of superstardom but instead finds ruin and has to “Swallow More Than Just Her Pride” (a line the singer appears particularly proud of). For a band renowned for offering wide scale easy-to-understand, one-size-fits all catharsis, “Kiss It Goodbye” is surprisingly insensitive, unsurprisingly misogynistic, and sickeningly populist (“Money Leads To Fame, And Fame Is The Disease/The Latest Epidemic, Reality TV”).
Still Nickelback save the worst till last, summoning all their Pearl Jam aping powers for the abysmal “Everything I Wanna Do”, an entirely unerotic sex jam, where Kroeger boasts about his girlfriend’s sexual aptitude. The track is so dull that it fails to be intriguingly sleazy, let alone sexy. Still “Everything I Wanna Do” is practically a revelation compared to the snoozing album closing ballad “Don’t Ever Let It End”: the kind of going-through-the-motions mid tempo love song that felt moribund in 1997.
Does Here And Now posses a solitary redeeming feature? Not really. It’s the kind of apathy enducing middle of the road North American hard rock record that’s reasonably anthemic and capable of inciting some half hearted toe tapping but nothing more. In many ways it’s the musical equivalent of Michael Bay’s Transformers 3 a tired retread of a product that was never all that captivating in the first place; full of explosions and surface level thrills, but lacking any kind of depth, substance or quality. For unexpectant fans only.
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