Album Review: Nickelback, ‘Feed the Machine’

Written by on June 20, 2017

Title: Feed the Machine
Artist: Nickelback
Record Label: Nickelback II Productions, Inc.
Release Date: June 16, 2017

Every Friday afternoon, I reserve some time to browse through the week’s new music releases. This past Friday, Spotify’s New Releases page was abound with albums and singles from many of today’s top artists. Lorde released her long-awaited second album, 2 Chainz came out with a new project, George Ezra made his return, and The Killers dropped a new single. Far below these, however, in the depths of the New Releases section, I stumbled upon something unexpected and exciting- a new Nickelback album, called Feed the Machine.

Admittedly, my excitement about the album was based more on morbid curiosity than high expectations. Most of Nickelback’s past work has struck me as either bland or annoying, except for “Photograph,” which is slightly okay. But for the most part, I believe Nickelback’s reputation as an underperforming band is justified. It isn’t justified, however, that the band’s negative reputation is more widely known than their music itself, due largely to memes and “[insert name] likes Nickelback” jokes. The worst-case scenario for any artist is when people know them for reasons other than their art. Fortunately for Nickelback, every new album gives them another chance to mature musically and eventually reestablish themselves as a serious rock group.

At the beginning, at least, Feed the Machine appears to be a step in the right direction. The title track, which opens the album, is one of Nickelback’s best songs in recent memory. Distorted guitars take the forefront while Chad Kroeger’s lyrics introduce the album’s theme of resistance against oppressive politics. The song’s harder rock sound pairs nicely with Kroeger’s gruff voice and is clearly not intended for pop radio. It’s actually nice to hear Nickelback make some less-commercial music.

Unfortunately, the album’s quality degenerates from there. The political/anti-establishment theme proves to be rather shallow, as the album’s subsequent mentions of corruption and oppression are very generic. On “Silent Majority,” for example, Kroeger urges listeners to abandon complacency and use their voices, singing “Hurry up, the world needs this. Speak up now or we can pick up the pieces.” While it’s certainly a good sentiment, it’s boring and far from original. Honestly, the song sounds like it could be in that Lemonade Mouth movie on Disney Channel. “Must Be Nice,” another of the political songs, seems like an attempt to address income inequality using an extended metaphor about fairy tales. The result is not good.

But most songs on Feed the Machine stray from the theme entirely, usually descending into the typical Nickelback subject matter. “Every Time We’re Together” is about a group of guys exaggerating their glory days, while “For The River” is about breaking out of prison and fleeing the long arm of the law. Most of these songs also revert to the old radio-friendly Nickelback sound, which is catchy but uninspired. Although these are throwbacks to the band’s older music, Kroeger takes care to avoid throwing a bone to their haters with dumb lyrics about “Joey’s head” or something. In other words, the lyrics in these songs aren’t great, but they don’t deserve the amount of ridicule other Nickelback lyrics have received.

Overall, Feed the Machine is nothing revolutionary. The band takes some small steps in the right direction, including that rockin’ title track, but their bread and butter is still formulaic songs for the radio. Fans will likely enjoy the album’s mix of rock styles, and detractors will surely criticize its inability to provide substantive commentary about its anti-establishment theme. I’ll admit, that edgy-looking cover art had me expecting some crazy stuff, but this album was, um, a bit of a letdown.

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