It’s a testament to Nickelback’s unshakeable prominence in pop culture that it is commonly seen (along with Entourage and Miller Lite commercials) as a figurehead of lowest-common-denominator douchebaggery. The truth is that there are bands far worse than Nickelback on modern-rock radio right now. (If you’ve never heard Five Finger Death Punch, keep it that way.) But nobody in the past decade has delivered horndog post-grunge anthems with nearly the commercial effectiveness of these pesky Canadians. It’s Nickelback’s popularity—more than its actual music—that puts the haters off. But as Here And Now shows, that popularity is the result of the band’s carefully orchestrated (and, it must be said, canny) effort to court multiple radio formats. Nickelback might be dumb, but it’s not stupid. It is a hugely profitable arena-rock band concerned only with staying a hugely profitable arena-rock band. Measured against its own narrow, shamelessly mercenary objectives, Here And Now is a success.
The album is also a bit of a surprise—at least for those who associate Nickelback exclusively with dead-eyed machismo. The single “When We Stand Together” is a wild departure by the band’s modest standards, skipping along on a bouncy acoustic guitar part that sounds like it’s trying to approximate dance music. It could almost pass for a backing track from Mylo Xyloto—and, strangely, the similarities to Coldplay don’t end there. A significant portion of Here And Now is given to shockingly sappy ballads like “Lullaby,” “Trying Not To Love You,” and “Holding On To Heaven,” where frontman Chad Kroeger likens himself to “a baby with a broken heart.”
Even Chris Martin would cringe at such rabid corniness. It’s actually a relief when Nickelback goes into default meathead mode on the drinkin’-and-doin’-it romps “Bottoms Up” and “Midnight Queen,” which is about a sexy gal who “doesn’t wanna a lollipop, but she sure loves a sucker.” Even as Here And Now inspires massive eye-rolls, the nefariously catchy songs stick like stepped-in dog crap. Nickelback stinks, but good luck scraping it off.