Quite possibly the world’s most popular pure rock band -- not modern-rock or indie-rock, but rock
are back with their new disc, Here and Now
, and once again they demonstrate an unerring skill at targeting mainstream accessibility. There’s not a single one of the album’s 11 tracks that doesn’t seem perfectly suited for the radio, but unfortunately that’s more an indictment of the current state of rock radio then a compliment to this Canadian quartet’s musical prowess. Frontman Chad Kroeger has a tune for every cliche, which makes Here and Now
feel more like a triumph of lowest-common-denominator song-craft than an example of superb rock record-making.
It Ain't Broke, So Why Fix it?
On one level, it’s silly to criticize Nickelback’s approach. Here and Now
is the band’s seventh studio effort -- and their first since Dark Horse
-- and it merely follows a very successful commercial formula they’ve been perfecting for more than 10 years: Write big, loud, obvious songs about good times and bad girls with sharp, clear guitar hooks. It’s a strategy a lot of bands try to copy, but you have to tip your hat to how consistent Nickelback have been for so long. You can hurl tons of criticism at these guys, but give them this: They’ve figured out how to stay ahead of the curve so that their post-grunge
music keeps resonating with fans. But with that being said, Here and Now
doesn’t break much new ground. Even worse, Kroeger and crew continue to parade the same sophomoric he-man shtick you would think they had outgrown by now.
A Split Personality
Kroeger is a split personality on Here and Now. On upbeat guys’-guy rockers like “Bottoms Up” and “Midnight Queen,” he plays the bad-boy party animal, singing the praises of alcohol and strippers. But then when he pulls out the piano for “Lullaby,” he becomes a kinder, gentler Kroeger who’s looking for true love. This angel/whore attitude toward women is hardly new in the world of rock music, but because Nickelback’s songs are so pronouncedly big and brash, Kroeger’s sentiments feel super-sized, which reduce his burly machismo to silly camp. Whether wooing a long-time crush on “Don’t Ever Let It End” or comparing a dangerous beauty to a Baywatch babe on “Gotta Get Me Some,” Kroeger expresses every emotion with an all-caps intensity that becomes tiring over the course of a whole album.
The well-oiled machine of Nickelback’s songwriting guarantees that even if you consider Kroeger’s lyrics to be banal or dopey -- his observations about Los Angeles and New York in “Kiss It Goodbye” are particularly lame -- you’ll usually find something to hook into in the melody. Like it or not, this quartet know how to craft under-four-minute tunes that flow smoothly from verse to chorus. While their harder-edged rock tracks often come across as high-energy stripper-rock, their mid-tempo numbers ruthlessly hit an emotional sweet spot that’s hard to deny. Beyond “Don’t Ever Let It End” and “Lullaby,” there’s also “Trying Not to Love You” and “Holding On to Heaven,” which on their surface are familiar boy-loves-girl relationship songs. But Kroeger and his bandmates are solid pros who know what they’re doing. Even when Here and Now feels entirely programmatic, the relentless catchiness of the album can be hard to resist.
Nickelback's 'Here and Now' - Bottom Line
Here and Now
probably won’t win Nickelback any converts, but at this stage of their career why should they care? Enjoying one of the largest, loyal fan bases in contemporary rock, Nickelback just need to deliver the goods, and while the rest of us can object to the band’s formulaic, somewhat Neanderthal approach, the simple fact is that a lot of other people really love these guys. So you could say that Here and Now
highlights Nickelback’s integrity in doing what they want to do without worrying about their haters. But you could also say they haven’t evolved much.
'Here and Now' - Best Tracks:
“Don’t Ever Let It End” (Purchase/Download
“Trying Not to Love You” (Purchase/Download
“Holding On to Heaven” (Purchase/Download
“Bottoms Up” (Purchase/Download
Release date – November 21, 2011