Release Date: November 21, 2011
This week, the bad boys from Canada, Nickelback returned with their seventh studio album, Here And Now. The new record picks up where 2008’s Dark Horse left off, seeing the band continue to polish and refine its now signature sound. This means that those who disparage the band’s commercial success will have one more reason to hate them, and fans will have 11 new reasons to sing their praises.
Here And Now, like the band’s previous three efforts, The Long Road , All The Right Reasons and the aforementioned Dark Horse, is full of catchy tunes. There are edgy rockers, a couple of power ballads and an uptempo feel good sing along or two, including the first single “When We Stand Together”. Unfortunately, unlike its predeccessors, Here And Now isn’t nearly as strong and memorable.
As the band’s musical success has grown, Nickelback have been accused of writing derivitive material and a noticable failure to grow or take risks. “Formulaic”, is a word often associated with their music. In part this can be tied to the band’s commercial uprise and monumental success. Yet, each album has pushed the band further up the ladder, driven by hit songs that will still be memorable years from now, while less mainstream bands will be forgotten. That breeds a lot of contempt.
However, Here And Now may be somewhat deserving of the contempt, the formulaic and derivitive tags, and some of the derisive comments made on blogposts across the globe. For Here And Now is arguably the band’s most trite and cliched work to date. This is not to disparrage the band, they simply fell a bit flat this time around. The band self-produced this record, and perhaps a lack of third party input left them a touch bias.
The opening in-your-face rocker, “This Means War”, is like a sonic punch to the gut. The production is crisp and powerful, and the song is as heavy as any of the songs recorded by some of the metal bands who mock them. However, it simply leaves no lasting impression.
On “Bottoms Up” the band return to the feel good party and drinking vibe that has made them famous, and this track, while less impressive than some of their hits over the years, will certainly be added to their inevitable Best Of package at some point in the future.
The socially concious, “When We Stand Together” is one of those feel good tracks designed to unite us all against the tribulations of the world; homelessness, hunger, disease, etc. Donate, volunteer, rejoice in humanity and crank up our hit song which shows we also care. I don’t doubt they do, and I hope some of the singles proceeds go to a good cause. This is another monster success for Nickelback.
The album also has its share of dirty girls and sex kitten tracks with “Midnight Queen”, “Gotta Get Me Some” and “Everything I Wanna Do”. The latter could be the third track of the “Figured You Out”, “Something In Your Mouth” trilogy. But again, while all the songs are good, none of them have that oomph that fans have come to expect from Nickelback songs.
More poignant tracks like “Lullaby” and “Trying Not To Love You” feel more like country songs than rock ballads, though without the twang. Not surpising since the latter was written with country artists The Warren Brothers. Both songs are good and at least one of them will likely be released as a single down the road.
“Kiss It Goodbye” has something of an industrial flavor while remaining a full on gritty rocker.
“Holding On To Heaven” might be a perfect example of where Nickelback went wrong with this record. The song is banal and trite, and an embarrassment to someone of their caliber. This song sounds like it was penned by adolescent boys trying to pen a hit, rather than the Kroeger brothers.
The album closer “Don’t Let It End” sounds like the evening companion to “This Afternoon” from Dark Horse.
In all, Here And Now is a solid rock record with a handful of good tunes, and a few filler pieces. It’s by no means a bad album, it’s simply not a great album, and pales alongside Dark Horse, which is arguably the band’s best output to date.
Fans will love it, haters will continue to blast them, and this time they have some actual fodder for their contempt. That said, even a weak Nickelback album is better than most of the dreck out there today.
On a side note, fans should definitely check out Nickelback’s performance of ZZ Top’s “Legs” on the just released ZZ Top – A Tribute From Friends. The entire record is excellent, and the Canadian rockers give a stunning performance.