It's fair to say that Nickelback are one of hard rock's most polarising bands. Though the Alberta, Canada quartet possess an enviable set of platinum-selling albums and can lay claim to a passionate fanbase right across the globe, all too often Chad Kroeger's band been mocked and maligned, held up as whipping boys for all that's wrong with modern rock, with their radio-ready anthems and everyman lyrics. Their success has made them an easy target at a time when rock songs about sex and booze are distinctly unfashionable, and yet they must be doing something right.
So while there are many who would argue that you could sum up the band’s ten album catalogue in one four-letter word, we think Nickelback are deserving of a fair hearing. Love them or hate them, there’s more to the quartet than their immortalisation as modern-day meme fodder would have you believe: here’s our assessment of the peaks and troughs of their recorded output.
10. No Fixed Address (2014)
Nickelback’s eighth studio album is the sound of a band flailing in the midst of an identity crisis. A change in direction following its cookie cutter predecessor, with No Fixed Address Chad Kroeger and co. attempted to expand their horizons to minimal avail.
Recorded in various studios with various collaborators, the album’s chaotic creation process mirrors its outcome. Lacklustre and jumping all over the place sonically, Nickelback swerved into their most pop-oriented territory to date, attempting to jazz things up with some modern country twang and a collaboration with rapper Flo Rida on the horn-infused Got Me Runnin’ Round.
Singles Edge of a Revolution and What Are You Waiting For? were met with a lukewarm response, with the former serving as the band’s first attempt at weighing in on political issues. Blending a newly-embraced EDM-influenced sound with thumping radio rock stylings, the incessant reliance of ballads here renders No Fixed Address largely unmemorable.
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9. Curb (1996)
Largely written by Chad Kroeger as a young man in his early twenties obsessed with the Seattle-based grunge movement, Nickelback’s full-length debut is almost unrecognisable from the sound they would come to settle on at the turn of the century.
Heavily influenced by the alt-rock surge of the ‘90s that was pitching Soundgarden and Pearl Jam to the masses, Curb assimilates so neatly into the existing scene that it renders itself deeply monochromatic. Featuring four remastered/re-recorded songs from the Hesher EP, released just two months prior, it offers few fresh takes on the groundwork laid by its inspirations: in a one-and-a-half star review Rolling Stone confidently asserted that the Canadian’s ‘generic’ sound would get them nowhere.
Curb’s only single, Fly, sees Chad Kroeger revisiting his childhood self and pondering the meaning of life in dark style, whilst deeper cut Just Four, would go on to be re-recorded and renamed Just For on the band’s 2001 Roadrunner debut, Silver Side Up.
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8. The State (1998)
Album two saw the first glimpses of Nickelback establishing their own identity, though one still far away from what we’d come to know throughout the 2000s.
Their last self-release before major labels began hammering down their door, on first listen The State may appear to be a fairly run of the mill post-grunge album, but between the rough-and-ready guitar lines some semblance of the band’s sonic character can be heard forming.
Maintaining the gritty grunge influences of their debut and giving them a swift polish, electronic pop-rock opener Breathe became the band’s radio breakthrough, whilst fan favourite Leader of Men showcased their knack for writing earworm rock tracks whilst dabbling in prog rock influences.
Given a boost in 2000 with a reissue via EMI Canada/Roadrunner, The State is certainly nothing game-changing, but it provides the first glimpses of the youthful spirit and unfiltered energy that would come to catapult Nickelback to the stars.
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7. Here and Now (2011)
For the first 15 years of their career, Nickelback appeared to be bulletproof. Having scored mainstream success with tracks such as How You Remind Me, Rockstar and Photograph, they’d been on the receiving end of a seemingly never-ending onslaught of negativity and straight-up hate, but with each successive album the quartet had more to celebrate.
By the time they reached their seventh album they’d settled into a pretty familiar sonic groove, but Here and Now marks the beginning of a worrying slide towards mediocrity. For their last release on long-time label Roadrunner Records, the band shed some of their moodiness in favour of a lighter sound, with the dance-ready acoustic-driven When We Stand Together sitting alongside a series of sickeningly sappy ballads (Lullaby, Trying Not To Love You, Holding On To Heaven).
Set against this shameful corniness the band did drop in some of their signature sleazy party anthems - Bottoms Up, Midnight Queen - but for perhaps the first time, Chad Kroeger's men seemed fallible and cautious here.
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6. Feed the Machine (2017)
Following the release of 2014’s No Fixed Address, Nickelback were forced to cancel the majority of their touring plans due to Chad Kroeger requiring vocal surgery. This led to the group becoming entangled in multiple legal battles related to said cancelations, and it's easy to understand why they were keen to return to the fray with a clean slate.
The band’s first release with BMG following their departure from Republic Records after just one album, Feed the Machine signalled a return to a heavier sound. Shying away from deeper exploration of the pop world, it's fifty per cent angsty anthems, fifty per cent riff-heavy love songs, ie classic Nickelback, executed with a good degree of success. Heavier cuts such as the title track and Coin for the Ferryman deliver in-your-face riffs and Kroeger’s signature gruff vocal melodies, whilst softer cuts Song On Fire and Every Time We’re Together soothe and seduce.
Elsewhere there’s something farcically brilliant about Kroeger aggressively listing off nursery rhymes on Must Be Nice, while The Betrayal (Act III) and its sombre album-closing counterpart, ‘The Betrayal (Act I)’ sit as two of the most underrated moments of the Canadians’ career.
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5. The Long Road (2003)
Perhaps the moodiest record in Nickelback's arsenal, The Long Road had big boots to fill when it was released two decades ago. And if it didn't quite match the huge commercial success of its predecessor Silver Side Up - few rock albums of the past 20 years have, to be fair - it's a record that holds up strongly.
Produced by Chad Kroeger alongside long-time collaborator Joey Moi, album four saw Nickelback honing their talent for courting multiple radio formats. Chugging hard rock cuts populate the record, but wistful single Someday telegraphed Nickelback’s progression towards a softer sound, one that would come to fruition fully on 2005's All the Right Reasons.
As with all Nickelback releases, the album was widely critiqued for its clumsy lyricism, but if you can look past cornball lines like Kroeger’s admission that he ‘gotta make love just one last time in the shower’ on Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good, there are fun moments to be found here, with the suggestive Figured You Out and dynamic closer See You at the Show clear highlights.
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4. Get Rollin’ (2022)
Did we imagine this, or was Nickelback's return in 2022 met with a certain grudging respect?
Free from the pressures of working to anyone else timetable, with the band managing themselves for the first time and recording for their own label, Chad Kroeger and guitarist Ryan Peake oversaw production and engineering duties on Get Rollin', an album that is 100 per cent unfiltered Nickelback. Whether that’s a positive distinction or not will likely depend on who you’re asking, but there is much to like on this carefree party record packed full of well-crafted and deeply self-aware rock anthems.
Riff-heavy opener San Quentin finds inspiration in the ridiculous story of Kroeger meeting a San Quentin prison warden at American restaurateur Guy Fieri’s birthday, and via rock ‘n’ roll drinking songs (Vegas Bomb), earnest acoustic power ballads (Does Heaven Even Know), and Southern rock charm (High Time), Get Rollin’ delivers time after time. They will never win over all the haters, and Chad Kroeger wouldn't have it any other way, but on album ten Nickelback prove that whatever it is, they’ve still got it.
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3. All the Right Reasons (2005)
Considered by many the defining Nickelback album, All the Right Reasons is a brilliant slab of windows down, radio blaring, rock ‘n’ roll ear candy.
From the tongue-in-cheek mega-hit Rockstar, a song which sits atop countless ‘guilty pleasure’ playlists, to the sentimental Photograph, which secured the band's reputation as rock radio hit merchants, and on to the wistful acoustic Far Away, three of the seven singles it spawned, Nickelback album five is a goldmine.
The first album to feature former 3 Doors Down drummer Daniel Adair, All The Right Reasons is Nickelback’s most commercially successful effort to date, seven times platinum in both the US and Canada. Presenting a more polished version of their sound, the likes of the powerfully sombre Savin’ Me are balanced by driving rock track Animals and the album’s heaviest cut Side of a Bullet.
Though criticised by some fans at the time of its release for its commercial pop direction, All the Right Reasons boasts a wealth of songs that still populate Nickelback setlists today.
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2. Silver Side Up (2001)
With the strange distinction of being released on September 11 2001, Nickelback’s third album catapulted them into rock's premier league.
Having enjoyed flickers of commercial success with The State, Kroeger and co. returned to the same studio in 2001 having cut a fresh deal with Roadrunner Records. Many of their 'new' songs had actually been written prior to album two’s release, but whilst Curb and The State dangled the keys to mainstream success, Silver Side Up simply pummelled the door down.
A moody, yet deeply accessible record, Silver Side Up’s collision of barrelling hard rock hits (Woke Up This Morning, Hangnail) and heartfelt rock ballads set the template for Nickelback as we know them today. The band's first US number one single, How You Remind Me went on to become the most played song of the decade on U.S. radio, while Too Bad remains one of the most important songs in the band’s discography, detailing how Chad and Mike Kroeger’s father left him with their mother as kids.
Brimming with the aggression and youthful fervour of the ‘90s grunge movement and sprinkling in pop sensibilities, Silver Side Up is a classic modern rock record.
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1. Dark Horse (2008)
Having delivered three records that earned them household name status and headline appearances on world’s biggest stages, in 2008 the pressure was on for Nickelback. As wildly successful as All The Right Reasons proved to be, for the sake of longevity they needed to prove to the world that they were capable of more than just played-to-death rock radio tunes. Enter legendary producer Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange.
The gifted producer behind AC/DC’s Back In Black and Highway To Hell, as well as Def Leppard’s multi-platinum smashes Hysteria and Pyromania, Lange has a knack for conjuring up magic in the studio, and proved to be a perfect match for Nickelback. With Lange co-producing the album alongside the band, Dark Horse is an unrivalled commercial triumph, and it has the sonic substance to back up its sales.
Darker, racier, and crammed full of meaty riffs, from the thundering guitars of the Grammy-nominated Burn It to the Ground, to the breezy country-infused This Afternoon, to the ridiculously horny sleazebag anthem Something in Your Mouth, whether you like it or not, on album six Nickelback cemented their place in rock history.
Blissfully in tune with their target audience, there are good reasons why Nickelback are one of the 21st century’s most successful artists. And Dark Horse is the finest example of the arena rock kings simply doing what they do, loudly and unapologetically.
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