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The Long Road
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It's never easy following up a multi-platinum success, but Canada's Nickelback's latest seem sure to match the sales of the many-million-selling Silver Side Up. The formula remains pretty much the same--nothing fancy, just radio-friendly grunge that lends an appropriately dramatic backing to the powerful and increasingly confident voice of Chad Kroeger. Aside from the fast and punchy opener "Flat on the Floor," the tough, staccato "Because of You," and the Oasis-like "Figured You Out," the band deal exclusively in soft-rock anthems (soft, that is, by 2003s pulverizing standards). The only real change here lies is in Kroeger's lyrical concerns. Where 2000's The State found him suffering the frustrations of small-town life, now he's tortured by a heavy touring schedule that promotes destructive drug abuse and strains relationships to breaking point. That said, you can't help feeling the ruthlessly analytical Kroeger would turn a visit to the supermarket into a riot of hatred and self-recrimination. For fans of Silver Side Up, Nickelback have delivered the goods once more. --Dominic Wills
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The underlying spirit of TLR seems one that is tainted with bitterness. Only "Yankin On My..." manages to rise above this and remains true to the caustic wittiness that made many of Nickelback's other songs so alluring. There is a plethora of "love gone wrong" songs on TLR, a theme that becomes wearisome. Even the enjoyable but faintly kitschy "Feelin Way Too Damn Good" has despairing undertones (but you DO have to chuckle appreciatively at the line about the shower. Okay--call me puerile. Or maybe that is a feminine perspective; the same line disgusted another reviewer). Other tunes have a head-banging rhythm and/or scathing, violent lyrics that might appeal to juvenile dissenters but arguably no one else outside such a mindset. Some of the band's previous magic is definitely diminished. For instance, I prefer the struggling hero depicted in "Never Again" from Silver Side Up to the woman-hating dominator in TLR's "Figured You Out". Sadly, even one of the best songs on the CD ("Believe It or Not") cannot be fully appreciated because of grammatical bumbles ("Everyone need...") Finally, I'm not quite certain how to feel about the rendition of "Saturday Night's (Alright for Fighting)": though both credible and likable, it just cannot approach the mastery of the original (the Elton/Bernie combo is tough to beat). Just as general commentary, some songs need to be left alone. Nowhere was that evidenced more glaringly than in the horrendous recent re-makes of Fleetwood Mac's Landslide and Queen's Crazy Little Thing Called Love! Thankfully, I am quite certain Nickelback will NOT have Elton tearing off his toupee in distress!
Whether TLR was rushed to production, or is representative of a depressed period for its creators, one hopes that the NEXT Nickelback venture will take up where Curb and Silver Side Up left off, meeting unfulfilled promise and embracing a wider audience with introspective but sophisticated lyrics and fresh, powerful music. This may mean the band will have to reach beyond the scope of their individual and collective talents and receive and infusion of creativity from elsewhere in the musical community, perhaps in a collaborative undertaking (re: Matchbox Twenty's "Disease").