There’s a town in Florida called Celebration that was designed, built and engineered by the Disney Corporation. It’s an ode to the small town of American mythology – where everyone knows everyone elses’ names, where little league is the sport of choice, where there’s a church on every corner and where 97% of the population are white. In its early years, actors were employed to aide the impression of the the yokel spirit and snow was sprayed on the ground every Christmas whether it was cold or not.
Celebration is, in more ways than are readily recognised, the epitome of American values. It presents the right image, it taps into patriotism and nostalgia and it is effortlessly controlled by a ruthless corporate behemoth that purports to be about family values. If it looks genuine and it sounds genuine then who cares if it actually is genuine?
Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Nickelback country.
Writing about music on WWM is always a tricky proposition as it always flares up far more defensive responses than your average ITV show. However, with Nickelback I feel I’m on safe ground.
To like this band you must be a tone deaf, semi-illiterate fucktard who enjoys the sensation of being aurally patronised and having their values slowly beaten into a bloody pulp by a thousand men in very expensive suits. You must be a masochist whose musical purchasing revolves around the latest ‘Now’ compilations and ‘Hardcore Urban Trance Classics 2009’. By all accounts and all tastes and all allowances for musical snobbery, you must be a moron.
‘Photographs’ is the band’s most recent single – a rerelease following the highly explicable but no less painfully successful ode to money and directionless consumerism ‘Rock Star’. It’s a contrived amalgamation of supposed memories from lead mullet Chad Kroeger, all perfectly emoting what is an archetypal upbringing for your average middle class ‘troubled’ teenager who still shops at The Gap – you know, the ideal demographic for this sort of thing.
Like a fake medium hustling a rich and grieving widow, Kroeger channels picture perfect vagaries of screen-door memories in middle America Nowheresville, picking out the schoolgirls who broke his heart and his numerous brushes with the law. He contemplates how he went astray, becoming a reflective and wizened soul who wants a second chance at life – all the while seemingly forgetting that he’s actually a former session musician from Canada whose only conviction is for being a drink-driver.
This follows the same line as their previous single ‘Rock Star’ which is basically a list of rock star cliches – a song particularly interesting as it features a rock star singing from the point of view of an ‘everyman’ about how he really wants to be rock star. Projected self adulation it may be, but it’s also about a rock star clearly becoming annoyed that his rock star life doesn’t follow that of what a rock star life should be – so he sings a song about he’d rather have a rock star image than be the actual rock star he is. Are you still with me?
Music is all about image, I’m not denying that, but there’s something deeply sinister about the way Nickelback go about it – their lyrics are almost focus-group driven, sculpted from marketable subjects that can inspire the most ferverent puchasing and imbued nostalgia. They drip Americana; etched into every rumpled t-shirt and straggly rat-tail is a sense of rugged machoism and glistening self importance, all topped off by a style that was popular roughly 15 years ago.
Of course, Nickelback aren’t the image of the real America, they’re the image of the corporate America. They’re the image of socially responsible rebellion, of radio friendly rock music and of all-out war-waging pomposity. Yes, there are other bands who use the flag as their image and some are far worse than these pseudo hillbillies, but I don’t think there’s a band out there who wear it so brazenly – who tread the line between sincerity and self parody so closely.
Listen to the lyrics. It’s like they’re cribbed from Facebook photo comments to achieve maximum effectiveness – a false history wrapped within a culminated life and sponsored by Disney. They’re the Miley Cyrus of rock bands; tightly squeezed by an army of imagemakers who can take their sub-average cliches and present it with so much glitter and sparkle that you hardly notice what’s beneath it all.
The talkbacks will begin soon and we’ll all wade through the usual music arguments. Let me save us all some time; I know there’re far worse bands in the world, I know that commercial rock is nothing new, I know that the music industry has always been about image and I know that even those precious fuck-you rock bands that I grew up on were really powered by Sony.
Nickelback are a new breed of all that, though. They’re a genetically spliced super group that combine the twin powers of alt dot origins and massive commercial appeal. Much like GI Joe, they have a copyright logo where the cock and balls should be – and should that sort of behaviour really be encouraged in the first place?