What would Nickelback do to follow up the multi-platinum success of 2008's Dark Horse? Nothing much different. The lessons learned from uber-producer Mutt Lange have been largely followed by the book for this year's Now and Then. Essentially, once more, this album is post-grunge modern melodic hard rock bristling with arena-size sound and clever hooks. It also contains more of Chad Kroeger's conflicted morality, particularly as it relates to women and sex. Expect more Eighties cock rock redux repackaged for the Tens.
Once more Kroeger can't decide if he wants his porn queen slut, licking his pistol clean, (Midnight Queen, Gotta Get Me Some, Everything I Wanna Do) or the Twilight movie love of the girl he can take home to mom (Trying Not to Love You, Holding on to Heaven, Don't Ever Let It End). To his credit, both babes get equal time on Here and Now. And Trying Not to Love You and Holding on to Heaven, if passed through Nashville and a steel guitar, could be cross-over country hits.
Other standard fair is within. This Means War, a tight metal-edged number, offers crotch rock machismo for a UFC throw down. (I'm sure their agent is pitching this song to them as I write.) Bottoms Up delivers the anticipated party number with accolades to booze, and more booze. However, it never reaches the cleverness of AC/DC's Have a Drink On Me.
Kroeger and Nickelback also, as expected, attempt to get inspirational. Lullaby, offering piano play that even Coldplay would love, finds our singer hoping to save the listener from (suicidal?) despair. When We Stand Together, Kroeger and company seem to develop a social conscience. That's laughable since their three favorite things in life are booze, tits, and ass.
Finally, with more of the contradiction you would expect from Kroeger, Kiss It Goodbye finds him ranting about the loss of integrity when dealing with the entertainment industry. He's essentially beating up on the very industry that slobbers and profits (as he does) from the very thing his band creates. Considering the repetition and predictability in both the music and lyrics of Now and Then, a line from the chorus likely defines this album, 'It's tough to see through bullshit when it's up above your eyes.'
All this aside, also typical and predictable of Nickelback: they make it all sound so good. This is catchy, accessible, and addictive American melodic hard rock. But, in the end, Now and Then is still Dark Horse part two.