Sound — 9
Few bands consistently deliver meat 'n potatoes rock that's fit for hard-nosed truckers hauling cargo through the cornfields of America as well as strippers who like to shake what the good Lord gave 'em while swinging around a stainless steel pole! Nickelback have universal appeal to all the regular Joes and Janes that populate the United States, thanks to the simple but effective use of geetars and power chords. The band's simplistic, verse-chorus-verse structure remains firmly in tact and lead vocalist/strummer Chad Kroeger once again demonstrates his deftness at writing hooky melodies. Ultimately, Nickelback churn out unfettered rock 'n roll that even the moose in the band's native Canada couldn't help but tap their feet -er, hooves to! No one is safe from Kroeger and Nickelback's songs, which are catchier than germs from a baby. So rather than hate on the band for its huge success and songs that are ubiquitous on the radio, give them a pat on the back for bucking the trend of declining CD sales by selling into the millions on the last effort All the Right Reasons and for making sure rock music doesn't fall victim to the stranglehold of rap music in popular culture.
Producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange, the man responsible for the pop sheen of Shania Twain records and for making AC/DC's Back in Black so accessible as well as an integral thread in the fabric of rock 'n roll culture, undeniably assisted in elevating Nickelback from the beer swilling and boob admiring scene to pop music world with the smash single, "Gotta Be Somebody," which blinds with its commercial sheen. Don't get us wrong, though; Dark Horse invites you to toss back a brew or rev the engine of your pick-up truck while listening to songs like "Burn It to the Ground," but there's a crispness and a clarity to the production that we haven't quite seen before on the band's records.
Lyrics — 7
Kroeger certainly isn't masking his intentions with songs that bear titles like "Something in Your Mouth," where he talks about "the hottie with the million-dollar body." The song is rife with sexual puns that Middle Americans will be text messaging to one another on those amorous nights when a booty call is in order. His voice retains it's gritty edge and he's talking to his constituents with his easy-to-relate to lyrics and use of slang and colloquialisms in his songs. While he's a mega-rich rock star, he manages to appeal to the common folk and speak to them on their level and that's no easy feat. Chad likes what you like and let's you know it. While he's often criticized for being the epitome of rock star 'tood, all that malarkey can be put aside in assessment of the music. It's made by a once-regular guy, for still-regular guys. So proceed to sing along and high-five your buddies to loud and large anthems like "Just to Get High" and "S.E.X."
Overall Impression — 8
Everyone loves to hate Nickelback, a fact which often overshadows the music the band makes. Strip away these peripheral notions and realize that the music is memorable and well constructed. We live in a democratic society and the people have spoken when it comes to Nickelback as the masses gobble up the band's releases. Dark Horse will fly off the shelves and why shouldn't it? Rock music has it's recessions and it's booms. Who says Nickelback can't usher the genre into the next decade with Dark Horse? It's a sure bet, not a "dark horse" gamble.