Nickelback – Here and Now (2011)

Posted: November 15, 2011 in Music

When you bring up Canadian rockers Nickelback, you are bound to strike a nerve. The world seems to be split right down the middle between those that love the band and those that absolutely hate them. For me, I really liked the freshness of the band when they first hit the scene way back in the late 1990s. But I, like many others, have grown tired of the band over the course of their career. My problem lies with the fact that the band has been singing about the same thing – sex, drugs, women, sex, love, and sex – over and over. Couple that with the fact that the band seems to be proud of recycling the same songs over and over, and it’s not hard to understand why the band has so many ‘haters’.

I’ve been seeing the group in a new light over the last year, though. The fact that they are the most name-dropped band on this blog probably has more meaning to it than my overly-stated despise for their arrogance, repetition and influence on so many other awful bands. In fact, I’m going to do something that I’ve never done before here…

I’m wiping the slate clean. I’m giving the band a fresh start. I’m erasing what memories I have of Chad Kroeger – shitty haircut and all.

I’m not going to make any comparisons (at least in this review) to the band’s glory days, or of the last eight or so years that have left an unwashable skid mark in the boxer shorts of today’s modern music scene. They have, after all, sold over 50 million albums wordlwide, and that’s 50 million more than I have. They played at the damn Olympics, for God’s sake – so maybe I’m just ‘missing’ something.

So with that in mind, I sat down and gave the band’s newest album – Here and Now – an honest listen. It was, of course, extremely difficult not to roll my eyes through some of the riffs (which I’ve heard SOMEWHERE before) and some of the lyrics (which I just can’t put my finger on, for some reason) – but for the most part, this is a pretty decent rock album. I even just checked outside to make sure hell actually hasn’t frozen over. It hasn’t, so let’s get to the details while we can…

Here and Now opens with “This Means War” – and the band makes an immediate statement that they can bring it as hard and loud as anyone. Crunching guitars and powerful drum blasts carry the track. Kroeger’s vocals even seem to be mixed down a bit, showcasing the band as a whole instead of just playing second fiddle to the egotistical front man’s performance.


—-

“Bottoms Up” is one of two simultaneously released singles from the album, and this one is for the rock charts. Filled with recognizable drum beats and chord strikes, the track ‘pounds’ away at the all-too-familiar premise of getting good and drunk. Nickelback pours shot after shot of signature hard rock here – and every jock, NASCAR follower and MMA fan will gulp down every one.

The flip side of the coin is the much smoother, almost countryfied single “When We Stand Together.” Expect to hear this every half an hour on top 40 radio for a while. It’s a bit too mainstream for me to give my full endorsement, but I’ll give the band credit for writing about something a little more poignant and thought-provoking than the normal ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ theme. Your girlfriend is probably going to love it.

There’s a certain whiskey-soaked borrowed from Black Label Society feel to “Midnight Queen” that drew me in immediately. It felt a bit dirtier and sexier than most of the rest of the album, and Kroeger shows he has more rock and roll swagger than most give him credit for. In fact, his annoying style carries over into “Gotta Get Me Some” – a ballsy song dipped in funk and rolled in shards of glass. Heavy on the bass and emphasis, Nickelback delivers an energetic blast of radio rock that reminds you they CAN write more than ballads. It was actually one of the more fun, memorable rides on the album.

Speaking of the ballad, “Lullaby” brings the new album to a screaming halt the lighter side of the band’s repertoire. Soaring vocals and delicate instrumentation will have you grabbing for your sleeping pills Bic lighter and swaying along. A beautiful song that reminds you of how easily this band sells out shifts from one gear to another.

The pressure goes back on the gas pedal with “Kiss It Goodbye,” with the return of the ‘rawk’. On top of what may be the most infectious guitar work on the album are some echoed, distorted vocals that pound away at you. It’s these kinds of cheap studio tricks effects that can make or break a track, and here they work triumphantly.

“Trying Not To Love You” and “Holding On To Heaven” are inexcusable back to back ballads, with the latter packing a little more punch than the first. “Holding…” has a far better structure and key shift, but they are both pretty status quo from a ‘chick-song’ perspective. Both are pretty forgettable probably headed for radio play in 2012.

One last wheel-squealer comes in the form of “Everything I Wanna Do.” The track isn’t as heavy as some other songs on the album, but has a dedicated pulse that carries it along. Worth noting is the excellent solo towards the end that almost makes you forget you are listening to a Nickelback song with its ferociousness.

“Don’t Ever Let It End” finishes things off with an up-tempo love song that has a pretty inspiring feel to it. It didn’t make me throw up get up and dance, but it did make me listen close, and I give Kroeger some props for writing a pretty, memorable track here.

While the second half of the album didn’t hold up to the obvious attempt to get back to being a rock band energy the first half gave us, Here and Now does show that there is still money to be made promise from Nickelback. In a year that showcased releases from their copycat wannabes brothers in the scene (Three Doors Down, Theory of a Deadman, Shinedown), it’s obvious that Kroeger and his bandmates still lead the pack when it comes to contemporary rock and roll.

Love them or hate them, they are obviously backed well by their label here to stay, and this album has them (mostly) pointing their feet in the right direction heading forward.

And if I can kind of be converted, anyone can…

7.5/10

Tracklist:
01. This Means War
02. Bottoms Up
03. When We Stand Together
04. Midnight Queen
05. Gotta Get Me Some
06. Lullaby
07. Kiss It Goodbye
08. Trying Not To Love You
09. Holding On To Heaven
10. Everything I Wanna Do
11. Don’t Ever Let It End

Buy at Amazon

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Comments
  1. Steve Kuhns says:

    ROFLMAO!! So glad you were able to keep your opinions out of the review!!
    I don’t think I’ll be running out and buying the new CD, but I might preview it to see if it’s any good!

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