From frontman Chad Kroeger's insidiously stupid lyrics to the laughable on-stage posturing of the band, Nickelback has shown the world what new lows prepackaged top-40 rock can achieve. There are so many good reasons to hate this band, but it's important to keep two things separate: hating the horrible music Nickelback makes and hating the ideology Nickelback promotes. Both are areas well-deserving of contempt.
In striving to find a distributor that accurately reflects their ideals, Nickelback teamed up with Wal-Mart to release a special edition of Dark Horse, their latest musical abomination, available only at the corporate monster. As I understand, this bonus material is concert footage from something dubiously titled Wal-Mart Soundcheck, apparently the Woodstock of unbridled capitalism and grade school-quality artistic expression. I imagine these albums are sold beneath a life-sized cardboard Chad Kroeger beckoning to shoppers.
But ideals aside, the music sucks. To ensure as generic a sound as possible, Nickelback enlisted the service of veteran rock producer Robert "Mutt" Lange of AC/DC fame. Considering that AC/DC's new album is also a Wal-Mart exclusive release, this does seem a logical choice. When Kroeger opens his mouth, horrible noises come out—a rasping imitation of grunge singing. This time around, Kroeger has expanded his songwriting to illuminate the tender subject of lovemaking in tubs of Jell-O and even sings an acronym that spells out S.E.X. Behind Kroeger's alphabet soup sexcapades, the guitars boom along in a cumbersome din of power chords and boring solos straight from a beginning guitar book, completely void of any innovative sound.
The beguiling thing about Kroeger's songwriting is that when he spouts a line like "He started steeeeeealing,/ to support the feeeeeeling," he's doing it with a straight face. Not the poker face worn by performers well-aware that the product they are selling is crap, but with a sincere belief that he is making a contribution to music. Listening to five minutes of any interview Kroeger has ever given, it is apparent that as well as being head-over-heels in love with himself, he regards his status as an "artist" as somewhere between the magnitude of Kurt Cobain and the vision of Radiohead. This naivete is what makes the music so intolerable. Kroeger and the band are too oblivious to notice they are poster children for everything that is wrong with commercialized music. That the public has allowed Nickelback to climb to such grandiose heights just allows Kroeger to affirm his rock-star fantasy.
Mercy. I can already hear it blasting out of pickup trucks from Challis to Kuna: "she ain't no Cinderella / when she's gettin' undressed / 'cuz she rocks it like the naughty Wicked Witch of the West." It's your duty as a purveyor of respectable music to see that this record fails and that Nickelback is deported back to British Columbia. Turn off the radio when they come on. If you have musically illiterate friends that threaten to buy this atrocity, introduce them to the many deserving artists out there.
Aside from all that, any band trite enough to name their album Dark Horse should have to answer for it. Is this title a metaphor? I doubt it. That right there shows the far reaches of Kroeger's imagination, probably inspired by looking out the window of their tour bus on the way to Wal-Mart Soundcheck.