Here and Now
Nickelback is, well, back for a seventh go at it. And the popular Canadian post-grunge act is nothing if not consistent, once again staying true to form.
Which is to say there's no flip of a coin needed to know whether or not Chad Kroeger and Co. are going to serve up another confounding combination of inspirational, feel-good anthems and debased odes to sex and drinking.
The album's first single, "When We Stand Together," deals with some big themes, including war, poverty and overcoming apathy. It counsels "depending on prayer" instead of numbly going about our daily routines, exhorting listeners to remember that embattled troops fighting for freedom overseas need our solidarity ("There's bullets flying through the air/ … We must stand together"). Kroeger then scolds the rich for not using their resources on behalf of the poor ("How can we fall asleep at night/When something's clearly wrong/When we could feed a starving world/With what we throw away/But all we serve are empty words").
"Lullaby" encourages fans at the end of their rope to hang on and find hope in the fact that the band knows how they feel. "I'm telling you that it's never that bad/Take it from someone who's been where you're at/ … Turn this up on the radio/If you can hear me now/I'm reaching out/To let you know that you're not alone." The song also implores someone contemplating suicide to reconsider: "Please let me take you/Out of the darkness and into the light/'Cause I have faith in you/That you're gonna make it through another night/Stop thinking about the easy way out/There's no need to go and blow the candle out/Because you're not done/You're far too young/And the best is yet to come."
"Kiss It Goodbye" offers (crude) social commentary on how chasing fame can destroy a person's life, repeatedly saying that those pursuing fame should watch their "a‑‑," then, "kiss it goodbye." Somewhat similar to The Eagles' "Hotel California," the song mentions the drugs of choice in Los Angeles (marijuana) and New York (cocaine) in assessing the dangerous allure of those places.
"Holding on to Heaven" includes the line, "Every sinner needs a savior."
The guys in Nickelback know how to craft an inspiring song, as you can see. But they arguably excel even more at glorifying degradation and excess. On "Midnight Queen," Kroeger praises his favorite bartender at a violent roadhouse. Oral sex is among her talents, we learn as we listen, and he compares "returning the favor" to drinking tequila and lime.
Similarly objectifying attitudes can be found on "Gotta Get Me Some," in which he compares a woman's body to a Ferrari and is thrilled to have found someone who is "everything I want." Kroeger goes on to say, "She's smokes a little home-grown, drinks a little Cuervo."
Things get nastier on "Everything I Wanna Do." Oral sex is mentioned again. And the chorus chants, "You and me, sitting in a tree," then spells out the f-word to finish the rhyme. (Interestingly, the F is muted.) Elsewhere on that song, Chad brags that his girl is ready to try anything she sees on TV or in a magazine, clear references to imitating pornographic material. "She could take the fantasy and make it a reality," he sings. "She delivers every dirty thought/My baby, she's into everything I wanna do."
Finally, "Bottoms Up" raises a perpetual toast to drinking. "Hey, who's coming with me/To kick a hole in the sky?/I love the whiskey/Let's drink that s‑‑‑ till it's dry/So grab a Jim B., J.D./Whatever you need/ … 'Nother round, fill 'er up/Hammer down, grab a cup/Bottoms up." In a bizarre shout-out to drunken imperviousness, Kroeger implies that he and his friends are unstoppable in this life and the next ("We ain't gonna stop until the clock runs out/Bottoms up/Hell can't handle all of us").
Scattered references to prayer and God, sinners and hell indicate that Nickelback has at least some awareness of spiritual concepts. But some of those references could be interpreted as profane. And the rest are all but swept away by a shameless celebration of carnal excess. It's hard to take a band's call to social justice seriously in one song when the one right after it glories in a favorite waitress' skill at oral sex.
World peace and the end of hunger? Nickelback's all for those things … as long as there's an endless supply of hot, willing women and bottomless shots of whiskey too. Why can't—or shouldn't—fans just disentangle those two themes and move on? Because the moral disconnect is simply too vast to ignore when you factor the hereafter into the here and now.