I love Nickelback’s latest album, but I shouldn’t. Here’s why.
Sometimes, it seems like the whole thing about Nickelback being the world’s most hated band is a hoax. Sure, with their heavy sound and very unsubtle themes of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, they’re not going to be up to everyone’s tastes, but the Canadian rock band is just too average to be that deep in anyone’s bad books. Their latest album, Get Rollin’, is no exception.
Their tenth album overall, and first in five years since 2017’s Feed the Machine, Nickelback emphasised that they didn’t want to rush the making of this record. Speaking in summer 2021, bassist Mike Kroeger spoke to Tulsa Music Stream about how the band had ditched the traditional convention of record labels and had been managing themselves, removing the looming presence of release deadlines and exhausting mega-tours. This is completely fair; upcoming stars such as Sam Fender and girl in red both had to take touring breaks due to pressure. Frontman Chad Kroeger has about 30 years on both of them.
Still though, one can’t help but wonder if Nickelback made the right decision. What exactly has the band been doing in the past five years? Get Rollin’ is full of 4-minute-long catchy power rock anthems, that the moment they finish you wonder what exactly you’d just been doing. There’s not really a lasting legacy coming from this album, not the kick that 2005’s All the Right Reasons and 2008’s Dark Horse had that cemented Nickelback into the big rock leagues. Everyone knows Rockstar and Photograph from the former, and you don’t necessarily need to be a hardcore fan to know Burn It to the Ground from the latter. Can anything be named since without some head scratching?
Nickelback do seem to be tenuously attempting to recreate some of these infamous classics on the new album. The second single, Those Days, is like Ghostbusters 2. It’s not necessarily bad, but a very forgettable sequel (to Photograph in this case). Surprisingly, Ghostbusters is one of the few 80s things not mentioned in this song. Motörhead, Prince and Nightmare on Elm Street are all referenced in the very era-friendly track, alongside the question, ‘What would you be doin’ back in those days?’ It feels like a cheap move, an attempt to get older fans to forget they’re listening to a rehash of a timeless classic and instead remember a time when life was good and almost coincidentally Nickelback didn’t exist.
Perhaps the heaviest track on the album, opener San Quentin has the antagonist claiming that they’re ‘About to do some sh*t that you ain’t seen before.’ Chad Kroeger sings this in his barely aged signature gravelly tone, over the same screaming guitars that he and Ryan Peake have been playing for almost 30 years.
There are a few moments when a new sound or a change of pace gives Get Rollin’ an excuse to be listened to. Tidal Wave has a driving chorus, supported throughout by a great bassline. Kroeger’s high notes demand to be sang along to here, and there’s a strong imagery of the deep feeling of love (or maybe just lust) that we can all relate to. High Time is an even better surprise, a purely country Nickelback road trip song that Luke Bryan or Luke Combs could cover and nobody would bat an eyelid. A really funky weed anthem, this track sounds like what you’d expect from Get Rollin’ if you only looked at the yellow van on the album cover. Kroeger sings about the van: ‘Looked like hell but felt like home to me.’ A lot of Nickelback fans would be able to say the same thing about their favourite band.
Kroeger tries to go a bit political on Steel Still Rusts. It’s confusing whether he’s coming from a pro-military or anti-military standpoint, and you wonder why it’s in there at all, especially coming straight after love ballad Does Heaven Even Know You’re Missing?, a song that sounds like the ending of a 2000’s teen movie but also one you wouldn’t dream of sending to your crush. Steel Still Rusts has the lyrics, ‘Lifetimes you could spend to find out what she meant.’ It’d be interesting to find out if all the self-reflection Nickelback does throughout this album is actually intentional.
Considering the five years since the last album, the newfound freedom of Nickelback’s self-representation, and the coronavirus pandemic (a time that has sprouted some great music born out of lockdown), Get Rollin’ could have had so much more to show for itself. The first half ranges from mediocre to enjoyable, the second half ranges from nothing to nothing. It’s barely distinguishable from any of the band’s other deeper cuts, let alone similar rock on the market.
Nickelback have played it so safe that you wonder why they even played at all. The moments where they take a chance, like on High Time, are so rewarding that the rest of the album sinks deeper into oblivion. It’s sad, because Get Rollin’ isn’t bad by any means. It just suffers from having no selling point. If you’re a Nickelback or general rock fan, it’s 100% worth a listen. This is your generic gift your grandma got you because she knows what you like, but nothing specific. There is a lot of enjoyment to be had in this album, but the chances of picking it up as a new listener over the material from their heyday in the late 2000s seem slim to none. Nickelback knows exactly what they’re good at, and that seems to be flogging a dark horse.
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