Nickelback – ‘Get Rollin’ Album Review

Photo Credit: Richard Beland

Since their debut in 1996, or at least certainly since their multi-platinum 2001 breakthrough Silver Side Up, Nickelback has generally been perceived as an unfortunate by-product of the early ’90s Seattle grunge sound. However, on their tenth album Get Rollin’, Nickelback seems to have more common with the dominating rock genre which immediately preceded that, namely so-called “hair metal.” Not in terms of the music – and certainly not appearance –  but rather much of the lyrical content…. It’s all here: bad boy posturing balanced out with sensitive love songs, wink-wink nods to casual drug use (which here can be found right in the album’s title as well as that of the song “High Time”), oddly-placed insinuations of social consciousness, and hat-tips to their musical heroes. Not to mention being seemingly oblivious to the unapologetic use of overtired rock clichés.

Nickelback attempts to get to the look-we’re-badass stuff right away on Get Rollin’. The early cut “Skinny Little Missy” is a rocker in which at least the band bothered with some thematic ambiguity (the lyrics suggest the song is about a prostitute, but it could easily be about something else). By contrast, the title “San Quintin,” (i.e. the famous California state prison) tells you pretty much all you need to know, as the song piles up rock stereotypes regarding life on the road as both a supposed alternative to and a metaphor for doin’ hard time (“Let the record show I did it all for rock ‘n’ roll // So someone please keep me the hell out of San Quintin”).

If nothing else, the song spares us the I’m-really-just-misunderstood component which partially fueled the band’s Top Five single “Photograph.” Unfortunately, the listener gets no parole from that 2005 hit’s personal nostalgia trap, which re-emerges in “Those Days,” an equally cringe-worthy piece of radio bait. And then there’s the love song, “Does Heaven Even Know Your Missing?” (it’s a safe bet they at least know what a cliché that notion is). The track initially threatens to be a slow acoustic number, but having it go to mid-tempo only makes it moderately more tolerable. Insult to injury then comes with the ironically-titled “… Just One More,” which repeats the same already worn-out theme (“Tell me Lord where’d my little angel go?// Cause I’m down here all alone”).

“… Just One More” actually might be a stab at the short-lived early rock “teen tragedy” subgenre (that included Wayne Cochran’s 1961 hit “Last Kiss,” which at least Pearl Jam chose to cover in its original version). More half-baked rock nostalgia surfaces in “High Time,” a would-be tribute to the Southern rock sound which includes the lyrics, “Eagles got us down to California // Beach Boys got us surfing on the sea.” On that subject, “Tidal Wave” starts out with the kind of musical subtlety which almost reminds us of why Nickelback was once considered alternative, but then wipes out with an annoying vocal in the chorus (it’s dialed down a bit in the second chorus, which is too little too late).  

After all this, one might think that the one track which aims for some type of social relevance would be the final straw. Just the title “Steel Still Rusts” is ambiguous enough to suggest some degree of innovation, and the song itself tells the story of a United States veteran from an unspecified era (although the lyric: “And no line of welcome signs when he got home” would suggest Vietnam) who ultimately finds peace while working as a bodyguard for famous rock musicians. The song is tight, never slows down long enough to be heard as pretentious, and is ultimately the album’s best track.

Sadly, this doesn’t say much for “Steel Still Rusts,” There’s also nothing particularly bothersome about “Horizon,” but nothing particularly redemptive either. On some level, Get Rollin’ is enjoyable at face value, but virtually everything Nickelback is attempting to do here has been done before, and done better (a lot better). Despite their reputation, Nickelback has sold a crap-ton of records, and their longtime loyalists will probably still want to roll with Keep Rollin’. Everyone else should look for an alternate route.

Written by: Richard John Cummins

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