Tricky business, Nickelback. Who could not admire them? After 10 albums, the Canadian band undoubtedly remain a commercial powerhouse, although their claims to be the second-best-selling foreign act in the US (behind The Beatles) may interest fans of Elton John, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin etc.
They’ve had the same line-up since 2005’s All The Right Reasons. They’ve stayed the course with a succession of rip-roaring albums. They’ve long established their own sound: Herculian anthems propelled by Chad Kroeger’s mighty rasp of a voice. And they don’t do curve balls.
Yet Nickelback are difficult to love. Kroeger has never gone out of his way to be liked. And on a musical level, no curve balls means few chances are taken; perhaps over the course of 10 albums a band who claim to be the eleventh best-selling act of all time might have developed their sound more.
After all, there are tracks on Get Rollin’ (Steel Still Rusts especially) that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the their 1996 debut Curb. But that’s to miss the point entirely. More crucially, it’s to miss just what a thrill Get Rollin’ is, from the moment opener San Quentin kicks in with Daniel Adair’s whiplash drums, a guitar buzz from the Nine Inch Nails playbook and Kroeger growling his outlaw’s tale (‘Get me the hell out of San Quentin…’).
By the time Just One More closes proceedings with Kroeger intoning the song’s title against an almighty and mightily complex swirl, the album has ticked all the boxes worth ticking. Unusually, and revealingly, there was no gnashing of Nickelback teeth when lockdown halted everyone. Instead they used the absence of deadlines to knuckle down to crafting an album that Kroeger, correctly, states is “loaded with rock”.
But – of course, there’s no contradiction here – it’s also loaded with sizzling, fist-pumpingly cathartic songs. Along the way there’s the impossibly catchy Skinny Little Missy, which deserves more than its wretched title; the elegiac Those Days; the glacial change of pace that is Tidal Wave; High Time, which seems to open with a joint being lit; and the magical opening to Horizon.
Nickelback are not reinventing the wheel here. That’s not them. But why on earth should they? As with their nine albums before it, Get Rollin’ is crafted to satisfy their fan base rather than to pick up new but casual admirers. And they’ve succeeded completely. Perhaps Nickelback aren’t such a tricky business after all.