There are many things in life which people love to hate – Nickelback is such an example. Despite having sold over 50 million albums worldwide, achieving platinum status on most of their albums, and establishing How You Remind Me, Photograph and Rockstar as timeless classics, the Canadian rock group often get the bitter end of the music community’s stick.
But that doesn’t stop the band from churning out music almost every three years. 2014 is no exception; with the release of their latest album, No Fixed Address. So, is it just more ammunition for the anti-Nickelbackers out there? Or is it a reason for them to put their weapons down once and for all?
No Fixed Address begins not quite like you’d expect. Well, like I expected, anyway. I half expected to hear a wail from lead singer Chad Kroeger, accompanied by a series of power chords, a technique so prevalent in Nickelback’s sound. Yet I was taken by surprise to hear that A Million Miles an Hour begins with a synthesised voice quite like something from a Daft Punk track. It’s always good for an album to tackle expectations, particularly a Nickelback one.
However, the glimmer of hope is soon trashed, as the song delves into familiar Nickelback territory, with an obnoxiously loud sound that’s simply the soundtrack to the story of a man getting high. Does that crushing feel continue for the rest of the album? Well, sort of.
When listening to the album, it’s easy to pick out where the band is using its comfortable formula. Edge of a Revolution is their attempt to create a politically empowering anthem as they’ve often done in the past, notably with When We Stand Together from their previous LP. As catchy as the single is (the first single from the album, in fact), it’s brimming with empty concepts about widespread anarchy and the topical NSA controversy.
Not only that, but it’s the only track on the album that’s labelled ‘EXPLICIT’ – a clear attempt to create a blaze which, sadly, fizzled out.
As I make my way through the album, my disappointment grows, as I’m met with the usual antithesis of sleazy bar songs (a significant trait of 2008’s Dark Horse) and uplifting ballads. As loud as their sound is, I found myself rolling my eyes to both the tune of dirty anthem, She Keeps Me Up, and cutesy-wutesy Miss You. These two types of track have been milked to death across their catalogue, and so I merely listen with deflated enthusiasm.
Despite the criticism I’ve so far rained down upon the album, it does present attempts to deviate from their tried-and-tested sound. Get ‘Em Up, a track about a failed bank robbery, is both gritty and fun simultaneously – in all honesty, it’d make a great addition to the next GTA soundtrack,
Couple that with some changes in genre, and you have something interesting. Hammer’s Coming Down has a strange Avicii Hey Brother feel to it, what with its epic chorus and panning vocals; Miss You, as much as I disliked it, added a ‘Jason Mraz whistle’ and quirky xylophone to its roster of sound; and penultimate track Got Me Runnin’ Round boasted not just a horn section, but Mr Flo Rida himself.
As odd as these additions may seem in a Nickelback album, they show signs that they’ve not given up on trying just yet. If only they can better utilise them in future albums, and not just stick them against the usual band’s sound like was done here, then there’s hope for their worn-out formula yet.
Overall, No Fixed Address is something of a carrot on a stick for its listeners. Throughout the album, the band teases the prospect that they might have changed for the better. Sadly, they haven’t – they’re the same background sound that fans have grown to love, and haters have grown to hate. Whether the gems scattered throughout this LP are the efforts of their new record label, Republic Records, a subtle hint at changes to come, or simply Nickelback listening to too much radio and pinching what they like the sound of, we’ll have to wait at least three years to find out.