There are three kinds of people on this planet: people who like Nickelback, people who hate Nickelback, and people who like them but won’t admit it. This writer fell under the first category up until Silver Side Up, when they changed into their current greased up revelry incarnation. A relic of ’90s alternative mainstream, where’d the success come from? These Canadian rockers make money from Kroeger’s gritty vocals, formulaic rock anthems and poorly-narrated sex talk prevalent on radio these days, whilst blind success brings us to 2008’s less-than-anticipated, yet marketable, Dark Horse.
This album is essentially All The Right Reasons or The Long Road all over again, with reminiscent “This Afternoon” hearkening back to the headache known as “Photograph”, and “Something In Your Mouth” retracing “Because Of You” and “Next Contestant”. I emphasize the backward stepping in lieu of this album’s title attempting to be foreboding while adding some adult atmosphere to it, whereas the closest it gets to such sensibilities is later on with “S.E.X.”, with Kroeger proudly confessing his menage trois fantasy in juvenile detail as though he’s boasting to high school kids.
The problem lies in trying so hard to convert us to perversion–it feels less like Matthew McConaughey hitting on your girlfriend, more like those creepy old men at your local Yahoo! chat room. Chad Kroeger might be blond now, but he still sounds like a pedophilic 40-something with a soft side. Gone are the days of The State, twisted story lines with fucked up characters that even the most ordinary people could relate to; tightly written tunes like “Leader of Men” were replaced with the radio-saturating “How You Remind Me”, when Kroeger was deemed one of VH1’s Fugliest Musicians, and “Gotta Be Somebody” is now making itself the new “If Everyone Cared”. Is it strange that these transitions coincide with changing drummers?
In terms of the genre at play, Dark Horse started off strong with the new stripper theme, “Something In Your Mouth”, where Kroeger can’t seem to contain himself as he spouts off about some “naughty thing” that’s “ripping up the dance floor”, to which he begs her to “shake [her] ass around for everyone.” It’s a strong song in the sea of Nickelback, but lyrically? Let’s hope the feminists turn their shoulder at this one. Shortly after, you get the faux rebel rock stomp “Burn It To The Ground”, and the aforementioned first single, “Gotta Be Somebody”, both generic tunes that warrant a mediocre listen, collected on a sub-par record that’s sure to sell millions.
In closing, if the same regurgitated trash fits your tastes, then by all means Dark Horse is for you. This writer’s only prayer is that maybe, for just a little while, “Rock Star” won’t be all over the damn radio every five minutes.
Essential Tracks: Pick one, they all sound alike.