Music: Bad Hair, Bad Vibes

The unanswerable question of why Nickelback remains one of the world's top bands

Oliver Meinerding

Why couldn't Nickelback just be more like Creed? The two bands have enough in common: ugly frontmen with uglier hair and criminal records; critically-hated, chart-topping albums with peaks in 2001-02; and millions of adoring, Clear Channel-endorsing fans. Yet Creed never resurrected following lead singer Scott Stapp's hilariously disastrous intoxicated performances that were so bad that four concertgoers sued the band in 2003.

Meanwhile, Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger's alcoholism led only to a DUI last year, not enough to permanently dislodge the band from mainstream success. And now, unfortunately, Nickelback is inexplicably one of the best-selling Rock bands in the world.

Don't believe me? The proof is in the numbers. With nearly 25 million albums sold worldwide, Nickelback is hardly a one-trick pony.

The Canadian Power Rock band first made it big with "How You Remind Me" in 2002, the most played single of the year. Off the 2001 album Silver Side Up, the song reminisces of lost love and traveling "to the bottom of every bottle." It's cheesyimagery to match the lame guitar riff your young nephew could master within a few hours.

Two other singles, "Too Bad" and "Never Again," reflecting on absentee fathers and broken homes, respectively, helped the album top off at No. 2 on U.S. charts.

While the 2003 follow-up, The Long Road, didn't capture the same success (it sold only 5 million worldwide, not 10 million), both the single "Someday" and the album earned Grammy nominations. Evidently the nominating committee hadn't discovered the lovely Web site that plays their song "Someday" out of one speaker and "How You Remind Me" from the other to show how both songs have the exact same bridge and chord progression (visit for a good laugh).

And still Nickelback's luck refuses to run out. In October 2005 the band scored its first No. 1 debut CD with All the Right Reasons. Though no better than any of their other albums, as of last week it was No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 200 (down from its position at No. 9 the week before). The album has spent 95 weeks on the chart and gone platinum six times.

The band's tours are just as successful as its records, as Nickelback is often accompanied by such "talents" as American Idol runner-up Daughtry and old burnouts Staind and Yellowcard. Puddle of Mudd and equally-cleverly-named Finger Eleven will be opening for Nickelback when they return to Cincinnati Tuesday.

And what do those lucky ticket holders have to look forward to? Quite a lot from the looks of the latest album and concert reviews.

Checking out the message boards on Canadian TV program The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos, I came across fan Ellie raving of Nickelback: "Each time they come out with a new CD, it's better and better every time. And they are 100% Canadian! They seem like a bunch of down to earth guys with a great sense of humor."

But parents beware: A mother named Tracey wasn't too happy about the concert her son attended. Nickelback has always been her son's favorite band, but she was quite disheartened when the band "came on and decided that cursing up a storm was fun," she posted. "I think that anyone that has a large audience that is listening to them has a huge responsibility to say something great! Telling everyone how drunk you are getting after the concert is not cool to a 10-year-old boy."

What else should mothers like Tracey expect from a band whose songs tackle such tough subjects as beating up the drunks that hit on your bartender girlfriend ("Next Contestant") or how not to drive off the highway when getting road head ("Animals"). Is this not poetry?:

"It's hard to steer when you're breathing in my ear/

But I got both hands on the wheel while you got both hands on my gears/

By now, no doubt that we're heading south/

I guess nobody ever taught her not to speak with a mouth full/

Cause this was it, like flicking on a switch/

It felt so good I almost drove into the ditch."

The musical risks taken on All the Right Reasons should be recognized as well. Wanting to be more than a "meat and potatoes" band, Nickelback started to experiment with an incredibly rare instrument.

"We were a little scared of using piano," Kroeger says on the band's Web site. "We just didn't think it was very Rock & Roll. It wasn't until we heard piano in a Nickelback song that we all said, 'Yes, we like this and we want do more of it.' It just complimented the part so well and really showed that we shouldn't be narrow-minded about any instrument, no matter what it is or what sort of stigma might be attached to it."

Wow, no wonder they won the 2006 World Music Award for best Rock group.

NICKELBACK plays Riverbend Tuesday.

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