By Keith Sharp
The pride of Hanna Alberta has just embarked on a 45-date North American tour (including seven Canadian dates) in support of their ninth studio recording album, `Feed The Machine’ yet it’s almost like this release is one of the record industry’s best kept secrets.
`Feed The Machine’ was released in mid June with very little promotional activity by distributor (Warner Music Canada) and virtually no press involvement from the band themselves. It’s probably true that only their hard-core fans even knew about the band’s June 23rd date at Toronto’s Budweiser Stage or their follow-up June 29th Bell Centre date in Montreal.
Considering the band’s fifth album, `All The Right Reasons” has just reached Diamond status in the States (10 million units sold) you would think that `Feed The Machine’ would receive the same advance buzz that a new release by Beyonce or Taylor Swift might generate – but no! Despite being one of the very few active rock bands to actually generate sales off new releases, Nickelback seem to have drawn an iron curtain in front of their latest effort.
And yes we know that since Nickelback cracked the global market big time with the staggering success of “How You Remind Me” from their third album `Silver Side Up’ they have been unmercifully slagged by music critics on both sides of the 49th parallel, which is totally ridiculous. To call them Pearl Jam knock offs is to denigrate the slew of hit singles Chad Kroeger and Co have generated since launching in 1995.
Most songwriters would kill to come up with melodic arrangements like “How You Remind Me”, “Photograph”, “Rockstar”, “Never Again” or “If Everyone Cared” just to name five of the 23 singles they have charted. Yet the greater Nickleback’s success has been with fans across this planet, the harsher the criticism they have received. It’s no wonder the band doesn’t want to talk to the media.
I mean what is it about Canada that the media loves bands when they are succeeding domestically, yet as soon as they strike it big in the US they automatically get disowned. Name one other Canadian band in existence right now that even comes close to the success Nickelback is enjoying in the States. Rush, Bryan Adams, Loverboy and even Neil Young and Joni Mitchell has never come close to topping 10 million unit sales on one album like Nickelback just pulled off with “All The Right Reason”. Only Alanis Morissette’s `Jagged Little Pill’ (33 million globally) and Shania Twain’s `The Woman In Me’ (over 20 million units sold) have topped Nickelback’s mark.
The Canadian Juno Awards television ratings are tanking right now, because for the most part, the cluster of genuine stars we currently produce want nothing to do with our domestic award show. And who can blame them. Drake’s `Views’ album was lauded as one of the industry’s top releases in North Americain 2016 and captured a slew of Grammy and Billboard Awards but did it win Top Canadian or even Top Rap Album – the answer is no! Leonard Cohen posthumously won best album for “You Want It Darker” and Jazz Cartier took home the Juno for Best Rap Album for his `Hotel Paranoia’ – really, who votes for these people!
It’s no wonder the likes of Drake, Justin Bieber and The Weeknd stay clear of these awards. Nickelback has won 12 Juno Awards but when was the last time they played the Junos? If this show is about making a statement about honouring the best music and musicians in this country, then the best musicians and recordings have to win the awards. If not, the Junos lose all credibility.
Critics may launch personal attacks against band members Chad Kroeger (lead vocals, guitar), Ryan Peake (lead guitar/vocals), Mike Peake, bass and Daniel Adair, drums, yet their CV of success speaks for itself, 12 major international tours, nine top-selling albums, 23 hit singles, over 50 million records sold. Voted Top Rock Group of the Decade by Billboard Magazine. I mean, come on, how more commercially credible can they get.
Chad Kroeger alone deserves tons of credit. Not only does he write virtually every song Nickelback records, he co-produces all their albums and even finds time to write for other artists and develop new talent on his own Vancouver-based 604 label. Some the variety of artists signed by Kroeger and his associate Jonathan Simpkin include Theory of a Deadman, Carly Rae Jepsen, Aaron Pritchett, Coleman Hell and Mariana’s Trench to name just a few artists on their label.
And yes, Nickleback are showing signs of progression. Their new album has a strong political message about taking a stand for what is right with some overtly poignant tracks like “Silent Majority” and the title track. But then there’s some killer melodic hooks on songs like “Home”, “After The Rain” and “Song On Fire” that Kroeger must knock off in his sleep. And then there’s the lead guitar prowess of Ryan Peake exhibited on the instrumental finale “The Betrayal Act 1”.
A solid rock album by a group that continues to rise above the unfair criticism that punctuates their work. Maybe they are laughing all the way to the bank but I am sure Chad Kroeger and Co would like to get some credit for what they continue to achieve. Or maybe like Drake, Bieber and The Weeknd, they really don’t give a toss about this industry – pity!