Hear Me Out: Nickelback’s The State is a Good Album

Twitter: @PeteHatesMusic

I am man enough to admit that I like the 1998 Nickelback album The State. Oh man, that felt good to get off of my chest, but I am fearing the repercussions of saying that and being an indie music blogger.

I’ve tried defending this opinion many times before, but the masses always beat me down. But, since I write this blog and they don’t – fuck it. Let’s defend Nickelback. At worst, my opinion will receive the same reaction it does when I randomly bring it up at a bar, with the difference being that I can’t physically see you taunt me (and you can’t see my tears).

Everyone hates Nickelback. Everyone. I’m pretty sure singer Chad Kroeger’s mom hates the band. As a self-respecting fan of ‘the arts’, how can you not?! How can a band that sounds like that take themselves so seriously? Or, at least LOOK like they take themselves so seriously?

Chad Kroeger in Nickelback (photo credit - Flickr user oxfamnovib)
But, have they always looked so Nickelback-ish? Have they always sounded so Nickelback-y? And why don’t people complain about other bands with same level of vitriol?

Granted, Nickelback’s album The State is not OK Computer or The White Album. That’s not my point here. But the State is not the terrible, faux-rawk, “who really thinks this is heavy” music the band has released in recent years. In the beginning, they were actually on a path to potentially being cool.

The State came out in Canada in 1998, and was re-released in 1999 (2000 in the USA) after the indie band (yes, Nickelback was once an indie band) was signed by Roadrunner Records – one of the most respected metal labels on the planet.

Nickelback toned back some of the noise from first album Curb, which led to a particularly radio-friendly sound. The change up worked – the State had several radio hits here in Canada and also in the States. The tracks, while slightly ripping off other genres and being a touch unoriginal, were generally good songs. They were the signs of a rock band before they found the unfortunate predictable formula to writing a rock hit. These songs were fierce, not poppy, and not written about girls or even for girls. They had somewhat unique riffs and well-executed bridges, buildups and structure.

Nickelback – Leader of Men

Radio LOVED this sound, and they loved it even more when Nickelback released their single How You Remind Me on their follow up album in 2001, which was the #1 charting, most played song on U.S. radio that year, yada yada yada, you know the end of this sad story. Rather than using their fame as a platform to progress their sound, the band milked the formula for everything it was worth (yes – probably a $hitload).

Maybe it’s because these songs aren’t horribly overplayed that I don’t hate The State. Maybe it’s because the band weren’t trying so damn hard, and just letting it happen naturally, with that early career raw passion. But it’s just a solid rock album and I genuinely like it.

Do critics agree with me that The State is a good album? NO – they do not.

AllMusic gave it a whopping 2 stars out of 5, saying “The music on Nickelback’s 2000 album The State is a consistent roots rock metal hybrid. Songs like “Breathe” and “Cowboy Hat” sound a bit like Fuel or Silverchair. Fans of Jimmy Eat World, Drowning Pool, Godsmack, P.O.D., and Stroke 9 will likely get into Nickelback.”

Sputnik Music topped them, giving them 2.5 out of 5 in their 2006 review. They noted “The State is by far Nickelback’s best record to date, unfortunately that isn’t saying much. The best thing I can say about this album is that Nickelback doesn’t seem to try to conform to mainstream rock, unlike all of their recent albums.”

The best review that I could find for The State was by Ultimate Guitar, which gave it the impressive rating of 7.7, which is comprised of 8.5 from the reviewer, and 6.8 from user reviews.

The best review that I read was the prestigious “Some guy went on Reddit” and decided to review every track one by one. His overall album thoughts were “While overall the album is painfully forgettable, there is a lingering sense that things could improve very easily. The band does work well together and play off one another quite well.”

Before the “are you ready for a rock show?!” pyrotechnics and predictable choruses, I saw a live Nickelback show. Not knowing much about Nickelback at the time, I descended on a free show at the Horseshoe back in 2001, just as How You Remind Me was released. I had heard the song once, and liked The State, so I thought it would be a good time. At the show, Chavril Chad announced the new song was number 1 in the States, which surprised the hell out of me, as I’d only just heard it. Unfortunately, I heard it about 99999 times afterwards.

And you know what? The show was fuckin’ great. The band covered Rage Against the Machine (well, Bruce Springsteen) and their track The Ghost of Tom Joad, and I thought the roof was going to collapse. I feel like I was at a unique point in the band’s career – just as the fame was hitting, and just as all attempts at originality and quality rock songs were going out the window – I saw them put on a show without the flash and without the megahits. It was a band still trying to prove themselves, using tracks from The State.

If you’re feel like exploring (or re-exploring) Nickelback, I suggest you try The State. Again, it’s not Dark Side of the Moon, but it’s not the crap stuff that follows. As a blogger, this is the last positive thing I’ll likely be allowed to write about Nickelback, so feel free to tweet us your thoughts @PeteHatesMusic. Stay tuned for our Defending our ‘Defending Nickelback’ article…

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1 Response

  1. Jeff says:

    A well-written piece, Pete. I will check out the album.