I’ve never listened to the entire catalog before, only listened to the radio hits that happened to pop up in public. I felt like the meme of “Nickelback Sucks” has been parroted a lot (including by myself) but I don’t think any band deserves that stamp without proper investigation. So I decided I’d do my duty and listen through to make my own judgments. I decided to do reverse chronological order and took stream-of-consciousness notes.
Chad’s voice is unique, but it’s also fairly grating and doesn’t have a lot of variety (Save for the first 2 albums when he was figuring out his sound). You’d think he’d get bored. Lyrics are generic and are littered with clichés. Although I haven’t spent enough time to listen and read every song, the parts I understood never went deeper than surface level. I get the feeling a lot of these songs were written so that they could apply to a hundred situations and therefore were marketable for movies and sports events. Drums and bass rarely do anything interesting on their own aside from an occasional staccato filler between choruses. I will give them credit, although there were definitely some songs that had the same progressions and patterns, they have been making music with just enough difference over 20 years that they haven’t made the same album each time. But, on the flip side, they haven’t ever done anything groundbreaking or dangerous. Every song is calculated and lukewarm. They are big and popular because of this. They broke out by following a genre pattern and catching the right wave at the right time and have just incorporated other genre stereotypes over the years to keep the sound fresh. Therefore, while their albums aren’t all the same, if you listen to the albums next to other contemporary platinum records, they share many similarities. I guess what I’m saying is if you like Nickelback, you’re not a failure. You just like to dip your toes into heavier music while retaining the party anthems and ballads that you want to turn off your brain to and sing along.
Feed the Machine — 2017
A couple pretty solid guitar riffs in a couple of the songs (For the River, Feed The Machine, Betrayal 3). Mostly forgettable ballads, but Home feels a little like a standout slower song. “Every Time We’re Together” shows Chad trying to do something unique with his voice, doesn’t really change much, but feels a little like a country-rock style.
Why does The Betrayal Act 3 come before Act 1?
Overall, a listenable album. Accessible for most people and not completely awful. 5/10.
No Fixed Address — 2014
Million Miles: Guitar tone is garbage.
Edge of a Revolution: Riff at 2:20 is pretty solid. Call and response is not good. What is this Revolution for? Like what is the point of this song?
What are you waiting for?: Is this Imagine Dragons? I guess it’s the first song I’ve questioned that I was listening to Nickelback. Nothing special here.
She Keeps me up: Not a terrible 70’s groove. But “Coca-cola Roller coaster?” What even. Catchy hook for sure. But after a couple listens this song would hurt me because there’s very little beyond the hook to keep me here.
Make Me Believe Again: Guitar tone is garbage again. Hook is boring.
Satellite: Not as good as Dave Matthews Band’s Satellite. Forgettable ballad. Not offensive, just generic and feels like a track 6. Guarantee this song is played at some weddings.
Get ’Em Up: Bringing back that ZZ-top vibe. Could have been the same exact song as She Keeps me Up, but there’s no cocacola rollercoaster and wah/talk box. It’s been replaced with a slide.
The Hammer’s Coming Down: OH SNAP. ORCHESTRAL INTRO. Someone’s in trouble, and they’re getting the hammer. Favorite tone of vocals yet at 2:40. He decided he didn’t need to push uber hard so it sounded not terrible. Aaaaand it’s gone.
Miss You: whoa, the bass did something. Vocal layering is too much. Another forgettable ballad.
Got Me Runnin’ Round : Cocacola roller coaster part 3.
Sister Sin: I almost forgot I’m listening to this intentionally. Forgettable.
Overall: I wouldn’t listen to this album. Trying to be dance music and I think they went too accessible on this one. I think that explains why Feed The Machine brings back some of those heavy rock vibes. 3/10.
Here And Now — 2011
This Means War: Thrash derivative riff. Not a bad song, not great.
Bottoms Up: Sounds like a quintessential bro bar anthem, including a mediocre guitar solo and a chant-able bridge.
When We Stand Together: Pandering to ‘mericans. Ugh. Another song written literally as an anthem for people to sing along. I mean, they are Canadian right?
Midnight Queen: U like sex? We like sex. We sell u sex with a side of generic riffs, solos, and hooks.
Gotta Get Me Some: hmm. The intro is actually pretty interesting. But themes are generic and denies replayability.
Lullaby: End of Transformers. A little better than their average ballad, but still whatever. Piano though, so new instrument!
Kiss it Goodbye: Rob Zombie Lite. Also drugs?
Trying Not To Love You: forgettable ballad with a 4/10 interesting guitar riff.
Holding On To Heaven: Sounds like they took Seal’s Kissed from a Rose and made it a generic rock song. Fees like this song could belong in a Tim Burton Batman movie.
Everything I Wanna Do: Don’t yuk her yum-sexually of course. More generic nods to thrash.
Don’t Ever Let It End: Vocal layers and piano just make this a cutting edge better than bad.
Overall: Album is even worse than No Fixed Address imho. 3/10.
Dark Horse — 2008
Something In Your Mouth: “women aren’t really people, they look better with a dick in their mouth” — paraphrase. Bleh, really? This album is starting out … very poorly. Guitar riff is cool, but the words are repulsive.
Honestly, I listened to the rest of this album cutting the lawn so I’ll give the skinny. A couple pretty okay riffs mixed between moderately catchy hooks and a ton of sexual innuendo. This is actually a pretty decent “rock” album — albeit boring overall. The only single I recall hearing on the radio was “If Today…” and it was ok. 5/10.
All the Right Reasons — 2005
This album starts out pretty solid, for 20 seconds. Then the song drags on for 4 minutes longer. Hmm. I’m seeing a theme, the intros to these songs are actually pretty good, but fall flat during the verses to make room for the vocals. PHOTOGRAPH. Then back to some … more songs. I’m getting to 2005 so it’s starting to sound pretty dated. Lot of NuMetal-inspired riffs, without the rap of course. More derivative sounds distilled for easy listening. Again, not bad, but not anything noteworthy. However, the drums are doing a little more on this album. Side Of A Bullet might be my favorite song thus far since “For The River” off of Feed The Machine (2017). Album finishes up with some more motr songs and then ends with Rockstar which might be my least favorite song I’ve heard today. It’s as if when they were writing Rockstar they thought “how can we take some popular instrumentation and riffs from modern country and just make it less unique”. This one is polarizing, and has some standout tracks, bad and good 4/10.
The Long Road — 2003
I’m getting tired, so reactions will be slower. Album starts out with a banger “Flat On The Floor”, and it makes me wish that all Nickelback songs were 2 minutes. They get their point across and don’t dilly around. This album helps me realize why they got big in the first place. Songs like Because Of You genuinely have a solid set of riffs and interesting layers through the whole thing. Lyrics are still blasé. Throw Yourself Away does the same thing as All The Right Reasons, sounds cool at first, and then goes on way too long. Bad ender with “See You At The Show”. 5/10.
Silver Side Up — 2001
Their breakout album with “How You Remind Me”. I won’t lie and say I always hated this song. I liked it at first. It still has a genuinely catchy chorus and is definitely “quintessential Nickelback”. The rest of the album showcases all the sounds we’ve come to know as Nickelback in later albums. I think this might be arguably the most “Nickelback” album there is, because the ones after this did many of the same things. So I give it a 6/10, even though it’s definitely not my personal favorite.
The State — 1999
Sounds like they wanted to be Bush, but a little heavier. There’s still some grunge influence left from their first album, but they’ve taken some other elements from heavier music and started to form choruses and verses with some space. 4/10
Curb — 1996
Even more grunge influence. There’s such an obvious influence of Pearl Jam / Nirvana here it hurts. But every band starts somewhere. Even though it’s derivative of more original bands, there’s something nice about listening to this knowing that this is where Nickelback started. Some solid riffs, with very present drums. Just a different sound overall and probably my favorite album of today— even though nothing really stands out. But maybe it’s just because I’ve reached the end. 5/10