Sound — 8
Nickelback is the band that everybody loves to hate. It is understandable that people would not like a band that is immensely famous from rewriting the same album three or four times. Yet, AC/DC doesn't get nearly as much criticism. Personally, I like both bands. I think the criticism is for the most part unfounded. I think "Dark Horse" is one of the best albums of the 2000s (every song was exceptional) and I was a fan of all the top twenty singles from "All the Right Reasons" except for "Photograph." At the same time, most of their albums have exactly eleven songs, run almost precisely forty minutes, and the order of the first three songs go: hard rock opener - catchy hard rock single - ballad/soft single. And then of course there was that time when lead singer/guitarist Chad Kroeger said that he intensely studies radio hits and attempts to embody their elements in Nickelback songs. Even if Nickelback's songwriting does get formulaic at times, it always has the potential to blossom into something new and exciting.
With "No Fixed Address," Nickelback more or less sticks with their established formula. The album has eleven songs, runs about forty minutes, and the first three songs are in the order I described above. There is a a mix of hard songs and soft songs, there are few guitar solos, and the guitars are always in a drop tuning. Thankfully, there is also barely any using of electronic/MIDI instruments, maybe a keyboard here or there.
From a production standpoint, "No Fixed Address" may be Nickelback's most polished record. All of their albums before "Dark Horse" had a raw production feel, but ever since Nickelback collaborated with John "Mutt" Lange on "Dark Horse," their sound has steadily become more practiced and polished. On this album, there are many instances of volume swells, vocal effects, or instrument tones that are changed from a natural tone to something tailored to a specific situation. Sometimes these effects are used well, but most of the time, they are just a reminder of the softening of Nickelback's sound.
Nickelback does however get creative with a couple of songs on the album. "Edge of a Revolution" is new territory for Nickelback on two fronts; it is a politically charged song (though it criticizes the already most criticized parts of the government while offering no solution) and it is also the first time, I believe, where Nickelback dedicates a section of the song to a crowd sing-along. In fact, it is probably the first good sing-along song released by Nickelback since "Rockstar."
"Got Me Runnin' Round" is uniquely tailored to fit the rapper Flo Rida, who makes a guest appearance on this song. "She Keeps Me Up" is a nice departure from Nickelback's signature style. This song features some female vocals as well as a distinct funk feel. While Nickelback is not known for taking risks, they do not fall short when they do.
Lyrics — 7
Chad Kroeger's vocals are as powerful as they always are. If there's one thing that defines Nickelback, it his voice. Likewise, if there's one thing on this album that is exactly same as past albums, it is his voice. Kroeger's vocal style is pretty one-dimensional, but at least it is a very good one dimension. His vocals are so similar from track to track, that I often find myself interchanging choruses from different songs. Nevertheless, his voice is unique and considering it isn't cracking under pressure, Kroeger still has one of the best voices in rock.
From a lyrical standpoint, Kroeger discusses the standard subjects: sex with girls, drugs with girls, relationships with girls, and (I know you saw this one coming) politics. See, since Nickelback songs usually deal exclusively with girls or partying, a political song, even a pretty normal one, is new ground for Nickelback. One other noticeable thing from a lyrical standpoint is that there are no songs about domestic abuse (or violence in general). It appears that this transition to softer lyrics mirrors the transition to a softer sound in general. On a positive note, Chad Kroeger's lyrics, no matter how trivial the topic, always flow well. His lyrics are never disjointed, abstract ideas; they are definite, solid thoughts and feelings that flow well in sequence, although the -ution rhymes in "Edge of a Revolution" are a bit of a stretch.
Here are some lyrics from that song: "Hey, hey, just obey/Your secret's safe with the NSA/In God we trust or the CIA?/Standing on the edge of a revolution/No we won't give up, we won't go away/'Cause we're not about to live in this mass delusion/No we don't wanna hear another word you say/'Cause we know they're all depending on mass confusion/No we can't turn back, we can't turn away/'Cause it's time we all relied on the last solution/No we won't lay down and accept this fate/'Cause we're standing on the edge of a revolution"
Overall Impression — 7
Overall, this album is an improvement from "Here and Now" but it is still worse than most of their albums before that. The main problem with this album is that only one or two of the songs are memorable, and even then, they are not as memorable as Nickelback's past hits. Considering that Nickelback albums are really more like collections of singles, it is fitting to denote a few worth listening to. The best hard rock song is "Edge of a Revolution." The best ballad/soft rock song is "Satellite." The most unique song is "She Keeps Me Up" and the best all-around-sounds-like-Nickelback song is "The Hammer's Coming Down."
In conclusion, this album is good for a solid listen or two, but at the end of the day, I'm just going to go back to "Dark Horse."