Although it might be hard to believe, Nickelback fans exist somewhere, somehow. The notorious grungy rock band has once again managed to break out of the confines of a running joke of a career, and up onto the charts. No Fixed Address, the band’s most recent album, is fortunately much of what people love to hate about the band. While most of the tracks on the album are the familiar drum banging, guitar zinging, and what you might describe as “yelling” vocals, Nickelback seems to be offering a more contemporary take on music’s most ridiculed band, with a few “pop-like” songs to enchant us this time around.
And, disappointingly, it works.
Tracks like “Edge of a Revolution” and “What Are You Waiting For” are already “nickeling” their way up onto the charts. (We’ll use “nickeling” as a verb to describe whatever it is that Nickelback does.) Although I really do not understand, Nickelback is doing something right.
No Fixed Address is a change of pace for the Canadian rockers, with their new pop sound most prevalent in “Got Me Running Around,” featuring the Nickelback of the hip-hop genre, Flo Rida. Yes, you read that correctly. Expectedly, it’s really just a short, choppy, sing-song “rap” that he does, and overall, it feels weird and out of place. “She Keeps Me Up” is another attempt at today’s pop. Lead singer Chad Kroeger’s rough vocals don’t seem to fit on this track—he’s an angry-sounding man stuck in a gushy pop song. It’s an odd fit, much as we’d expected it to be.
The lyrics and messages relayed throughout the album are quite versatile. We get political stances, advice about life, and even a story about two guys trying to rob a bank—which more or less means Nickelback covers the full range of the human condition with this one. In “What Are You Waiting For,” Kroeger gets deep, asking us, “Don’t you really wanna live your life?” Kroeger then proceeds to advise his listeners, “Believe in every dream that you got.” Because? Well, “you’re only living once.” Nothing quite like a Nickelback song to make you painfully aware of your own mortality.
Moving upward to his political soapbox in “Edge of a Revolution,” Kroeger mentions the NSA, CIA, and Wall Street, but never makes it clear he understands much about any one of them. He does call Wall Street a “common thief” but aside from that, it all seems quite hollow, even for a Nickelback song. In the chorus, everyone gets amped up with a call-and-response thing going on between Kroeger and an imaginary crowd. Nickelback yells “WHAT DO WE WANT?” The crowd responds “WE WANT CHANGE!” He yells back “AND HOW ARE WE GONNA GET IT?” This time everyone yells, “REVOLUTION!”
It’s an awful lot of yelling going on, but we have got to ask the real questions here: What change, Nickelback? What do you mean by revolution? How do you plan on going about all of this? You have got to be clearer here.
So now we have an uncomfortably existential Nickelback song and an uncomfortably political Nickelback song. What more could we ask for? Not much, but there’s plenty more we didn’t ask for that Nickelback gives us anyway. The song “Get ’Em Up” tells the story of two gangster wannabes who are trying to rob a bank. They are ultimately unsuccessful, though. They realize that it is a Sunday and that a cop has been parked across the street watching them practice with their guns. Who thinks to write a song about an armed bank robbery? Should we be concerned that the singer of the world’s most bullied band is writing a song about an armed bank robbery? Points for creativity, I guess.
Although the album is quite “different” for Nickelback—depending on your past sentiments toward the band—it will still have you either bobbing your head or banging it against something hard. Although lacking substance, many of the songs are catchy, and the lyrics are repetitive enough to torture listeners into singing along. There is a reason why Nickelback is still around, and although the answer isn’t obvious yet, like Nickelback’s fans, it’s got to be out there, somewhere.
*Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated that Chad Kroeger is divorced. According to a representative of the band, he is “still very much happily married.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Michael Muller