Nickelback – The State

Released: March 11, 1998 (self-released)
Re-released: March 7, 2000 by Roadrunner Records

You know what, let’s do this. Let’s tackle the Nickelback problem. It’s gonna have to happen eventually so let’s just get it out of the way right now. We begin with Wikipedia (a bastion of misinformation to be sure, but what follows is all pretty much verifiable fact)…

Nickelback is one of the most commercially successful Canadian groups, having sold more than 50 million albums worldwide and ranking as the eleventh best-selling music act, and the second best-selling foreign act in the U.S. of the 2000s, behind The Beatles. Billboard ranks them the top rock group of the decade, and their hit song “How You Remind Me” was listed as the top rock song of the decade and the fourth song of the decade. They were listed number seven on the Billboard top artist of the decade, with four albums listed on the Billboard top albums of the decade.

In the world of popular music, the above resume makes the band an unqualified success. Now let’s head over to Urban Dictionary for a small sampling of what Nickelback “means”…

1. Nickelback

Another mediocre somewhat popular nu-metal band, this time, from Canada, which isn’t a surprise considering their musical track record (Avril, Celine Dion, Barenaked Ladies, etc). Lead singer Chad is an extremely nasal “Marlboro Man” type vocalist who sounds constipated on a permenant basis. Guitar consists mostly of easy-to-play power chords that give the band a “tough” sound to the untrained ear, but a closer look reveals a band that has nothing to offer creatively. They were recently exposed recycling their music in their two hit singles, “How You Remind Me” and “Someday”, which sound nearly identical when played simultaneously.

Nickelback should simply give up.

2. nickelback

the act of willfully allowing one’s ears to bleed.

I was Nickelbacking so the school nurse sent me home early.

3. Nickelback

Horrible band. Plain and simple. Most of their songs sound nearly identical, because they have no musical talent or creativity. Just because you can play some power chords does not make you a good guitar player. Just because you can write sappy love songs with almost the same melody for every song does not make you a good songwriter. This band is like cyanide for my ears, and it is very hard for me to understand what people hear in their music. Maybe they had one or two catchy little hits, but next time really listen to what they are playing and compare it to a band such as, The Strokes. Tell me what sounds better and more creative. If you say Nickelback, then you are entitled to your opinion of course, but I feel very sorry for you, because you will never learn to appreciate actual talented musical expression. I’m not saying stop listening to Nickelback if you really like them, im simply saying expand your musical horizon. There is better, more thought provoking stuff out there.

Nickelback Fan: Dude, Nickelback effin rocks bro, did you hear their guitarist jam on those power chords, man that was amazing!

Smart Person: …wow…grow a fuckin brain idiot…

It goes on from there, but you get the general idea. Despite selling a ridiculous amount of albums, topping radio and sales charts, and selling out arenas worldwide, Nickelback is almost universally regarded as the “worst band” currently going, a view shared by critics and non-fans (as seen above). Of course, to attain such lofty hatred a band must first attain lofty success, as it’s hard to get millions of people to hate on a band that most of them have never heard of let alone heard. So yes, they are a polarizing band and if you admit to owning (or heaven forbid *liking*) anything by the group, well you’re pretty much signing your own credibility death warrant in certain musical circles. I have plenty of friends who like to feign vomiting at the mere mention of Canada’s least favorite export.

All of which means what to me, exactly? Not a whole hell of a lot, as it turns out. You’re talking to a guy who happens to think the guys in Winger are genuinely excellent musicians despite their status as 80’s hairband punching bags thanks to the likes of Metallica and Beavis & Butthead. I’m not afraid to admit I like what others consider utter shite, so it should come as no surprise to anybody that I own and – *gasp* – enjoy several Nickelback albums. I’m also not alone, so it’s not like I feel like I need to join a support group. So how did this happen? The answer is actually quite a traditional story and one that shows how the system is meant to work.

I had never so much as heard the name Nickelback (outside of football context) when I walked into a small club in the spring of 2001 to check out another up-n-coming band – 3 Doors Down. The opening act was a ferociously loud quartet that played with incredible bravado and heft, a band we now know to be Nickelback. After the gig my friend Steve and I ambled up the street to a local record store (a misadventure in its own right) and each purchased a copy of The State thanks in part to the fact that their set was still ringing in our ears. Ironically enough we were quite disappointed on the ride home that night when we threw the disc into the car stereo and found the album to be about 1/3 of the intensity, weight, and volume of the concert, so much so that I filed the album away for months before eventually dusting it off and giving it some proper attention. So I actually came to discover the world’s most hated band through the good, old fashioned “live experience”, crazy as it sounds.

“Nice story, dumbass. Is there anything resembling a review coming?” Right, we should get to that. So yeah, some folks have termed Nickelback as “nu metal”, a label I have a hard time slapping on them given that it was initially meant to cover bands who took traditional metal into new and experimental places (see Tool and Korn for example), whereas Nickelback and their ilk basically took Alice In Chain-era grunge, then dumbed it down and thickened it up. Sure, it’s meathead rock, I never said otherwise. But you know what? There’s nothing wrong with meathead rock. Big, crunching guitar riffs are the backbone of rock n’ roll and one of the main things I’m personally looking for in a band. The galloping opening riff of “Breathe” is tremendous and the chugging rhythm guitar in “Hold Out Your Hand” totally sounds like something James Hetfield and company would have put on an early Metallica record (OMG! He did NOT just make that comparison!). No, they’re not Metallica (though I think at times they kind think they’re in that ballpark, which is sad).

Chad Kroeger is by now pretty well known for his gargled bellow and I will admit his vocals take a while to get used to. He’s not really much of a singer and he milks the same well-worn phrasing quite a bit. He’s also not the world’s most imaginative lyricist, a problem which will rear its ugly head on future releases when he really gets in touch with his inner misogynist. Here it’s more about thinly veiled (or completely unveiled, as in the case of “Worthy To Say”) references to drug use and a sort of general malaise about growing up bored. I dunno, I try to not to dig too deeply on this stuff.

The State is a slight step up from the band’s totally self-released debut, adding better production (though the pots-and-pans drum sound sucks ass) and lessening the out-n-out sludge without sacrificing any intensity. The world was about to be overrun with bands of this type (Saliva, Soil, Theory Of A Deadman, you name ’em) and while certainly not breaking any new ground or paving any magical “way”, Nickelback was at least at the front of the movement, a fact which probably explains some of their initial success. This album got them noticed and proved to be a stepping stone for the massive follow-up Silver Side Up and its equally massive anthem “How You Remind Me”, although in truth there’s nothing here to really hint at what was to come. Instead you get what you pay for, a bar band for the new millennium, hopped up on 70’s rock and 90’s alternametal but pumped through a bigger amp (which possibly has a hole in it).

Is it metal? Not to most true metal fans. Is it rock? Feels too heavy for that designation. Instead what we have is a new breed of simplified “heavy rock” which somehow managed to go mainstream when apparently nobody was looking, All that’s left to do now is accept the inevitable and maybe wonder just who would have stepped into the role of critical pin cushion if not for these guys. I guess we’ll never know, but I’m sure the guys in Winger are glad to be off the hook.



1. Breathe

2. Cowboy Hat

3. Leader Of Men

4. Old Enough

5. Worthy To Say

6. Diggin’ This

7. Deep

8. One Last Run

9. Not Leavin’ Yet

10. Hold Out Your Hand

11. Leader Of Men [Acoustic]


Chad Kroeger (V,G), Ryan Peake (G), Mike Kroeger (B), Ryan Vikedal (D)

Produced by Dale Penner


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