Now onto their fourth album, Canadian rockers Nickelback aren’t here for the complicated things in life. You’re in either one of two camps when it comes to Chad Kroeger and chums – soulless corporate rock sludge or heartfelt, authentic music to light your cigarette lighter up to in a stadium.
If you’re in the latter camp, then All The Right Reasons won’t disappoint. All the elements that made How You Remind Me one of the biggest hits of recent years are all present and correct – the chiming rock guitar, the big chorus, and most of all, Kroeger’s voice, which is reaching levels surely beyond parody here – if you’ve ever wondered how someone sings while suffering from chronic constipation, then step this way.
Nobody can deny that Nickelback have a way with a catchy tune, and every single track here will fit in nicely to any US rock radio station. Far Away is a rather nice ballad which is notable for being one of the few times that Kroeger doesn’t sound like his appendix is about to burst. Photograph, despite some absolutely atrocious lyrics, has a suitably anthemic chorus, while Side Of A Bullet is a genuinely innovative track – dedicated to Dimebag Darrell, tragically shot dead on stage last year, it features some poignant lyrics over a guitar riff played by Darrell himself, all thanks to the marvels of studio technology.
Yet these high points are few and far between. Opening track Follow You Home, despite being a suitably rocking opener, sees Kroeger tell the object of his affection that “you can scream profanity, leave me here to die alone but I’ll still follow you home” – sentiments you’d expect to hear from a stalker hiding in a wheelie bin sniffing some potato cuttings rather than a millionaire rockstar.
It’s the lyrics that really let Nickelback down in fact. Photograph is presumably meant to sound wistful and pensive, but the lyrics are just plain silly. The song sees Kroeger looking over old photographs and reminiscing – “how did our eyes get so red…and what the hell is on Joey’s head?”. What is on Joey’s head, we wonder? Sadly, Chad never tell us, instead rambling on about the arcade he used to hang out in (where “the cops hated us”) and about a girl named Kim, who he presumably followed home while she screamed profanities at him. It’s an appalling cliched song.
Then there’s Kroeger’s voice. There’s a school of thought that says this type of vocal is somehow passionate and ‘real’ – which may be true, but there’s no getting away from the fact that Kroeger sounds like he’s in physical pain on most tracks here. Next Contestant even takes the brave (or foolish) step of adding some kind of vocoder effects to Kroeger’s voice with some really dire results. “Is that your hand on my girlfriend” Chad asks, and it’s quite tough at this point to try to stop yourself from laughing.
On and on it plods, with If Everyone Cared imagining a Utopia where “everyone cared and no one cried, if everybody loved and nobody lied” – pulling cliche after cliche out of the bag. It’s the very definition of personality-free rock music with hardly any redeeming features at all.
The one flicker of interest appears on the last track, Rockstar, which appears to be Kroeger tearing into the shallow life of your average drug-taking, Playboy Bunny-dating rock star. It turns out that Chad’s not too enamoured with the lives of rockstars. Well Chad, there’s an easy answer. Pack it in. Now. Please.