Monday, 25 January 2010

NICKELBACK - Dark Horse


I didn’t like Nickelback much before. ‘How You Remind Me’ is a half-decent rock radio single, but beyond that, I have little time for them. All the other Nickelback songs I’d heard previously seem to be a re-hash of that tune, with predictable songwriting and arrangements with all the charm of a metronome. ‘Dark Horse’, their sixth album, is the first one to be produced by Mutt Lange.

For the three of you who don’t know, Mutt Lange is a production legend. He’s worked with Def Leppard (‘Pyromania’, ‘Hysteria’), Bryan Adams (‘Waking Up The Neighbours’) and AC/DC (‘Highway To Hell’, ‘Back In Black’) and a whole bunch more. He has a trademark approach where he’ll beef up the sound and add lots of backing vocals (look no further than classic Def Leppard for the best examples); he’s even used that approach to some extent on Shania (ex-Mrs Mutt) Twain albums. I have a friend who has a theory: Mutt is a mad scientist. Bands knock on the door of his lab with their master tapes. He takes them and puts them into his special machine (the Mutt-o-tron™), shouts “Red light, yellow light, green light, GO!” and presto – everything comes out bigger, shinier and with extra Def Leppardy backing vocals.

And so it is with Nickelback’s ‘Dark Horse’. The album utilises all of Mutt Lange’s best tricks – so much so, I have trouble recognising a lot of this as being that band I often found dull. Thanks to Mutt Lange’s presence, their music has moved from tired sounding post-grunge, to more classic sounding hard rock. From the crunch of the opener it’s obvious the post-grunge boredom of previous Nickelback albums has no place here. Its edginess comes as a surprise, as the end result is not what you’re expecting from either Nickelback or Lange. A good attempt at an attention grabber, but sadly, Chad Kroeger is an appalling lyricist and here he peddles out a bunch of smut that would make even Mötley Crüe cringe. This opening song is called ‘Something In Your Mouth’. I’m not gonna go into details, but let’s just say Kroeger sings about strippers - and not in a fun way.

Okay. ‘Dark Horse’ may have more going for it musically, compared to Nickelback's previous offerings (thanks in no small part to Mutt), but excrutiating lyrics throughout spoil any chance of it ever being a decent record. During ‘Next Go Round’ Chad Kroeger sings (seemingly without irony) about doing it ‘until [he’s] good and sweaty until [he] can’t stand up’ and how he wants to be ridden ‘up and down the lawn’ (presumably like a tractor, since he name checks John Deere). Jesus Christ. During several other songs, Kroeger makes other lewd sexual references which spoil otherwise decent tunes.

‘Burn It To The Ground’ matches a hard driving riff with a huge chorus. The ‘hey’ vocal here is surely a sample (1000 Joe Elliotts?); overall, the end result is a winner. Sure, as expected, the lyrics are plain dumb, but at least this time Kroeger's not thinking with his nob. Hmmm, a song about partying and drinking, on an album full of crass songs about girls? I sense a midlife crisis.

Mutt Lange’s work is the best thing about this record. Since with some help Nickelback can now present a decent tune, maybe next time they’ll get someone clever in to help write the lyrics. I’m not sure Chad Kroeger can even spell shover chauver chauvinism.



Watch Chad talk about his house here! Could be better than the real thing.


January 2010



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