You won’t find many members of C.R.E.T.I.N.S. (Cabal of Rock Elitists Tethered to Insular Notions and Semiotics) singing the praises of Nickelback. A year or two ago, on a record-buying excursion with Jack ”Li’l Oz” Osbourne, I observed the effect the mere sight of Nickelback’s 2001 album, ”Silver Side Up,” could have on a rock fan. ”Doesn’t he look like he’s about 45 years old?” asked Jack the Lad with a derisive sneer, referring to goateed vocalist Chad Kroeger. Meanwhile, only the other day, a colleague dismissed the ‘back boys as ”the Canadian Creed,” implying that both their nationality and their sound were risible.
Having tendered my resignation from the above-named organization, I unabashedly admit that I think Nickelback’s new CD, The Long Road, is a ripping good spin. It offers a heaping helping of meat-and-potatoes rawk that never veers far from the sing-along template established by their hit ”How You Remind Me.” The band hammers each song home with a single-minded fervor, cannily melding metal, grunge, and melody. As a singer, Kroeger possesses that rarest of latter-day rock-star commodities: an instantly identifiable voice imbued with passion and edge. Even when he’s not exactly being profound (”Believe it or not/Everyone/Has things that they hide”), he convinces you he believes every word. And ”Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good” – which notes that exultation is usually followed by emotional letdown – just feels damn universal; it’s got hit writ large all over it. When he’s not being a philosopher, Kroeger can get as down and dirty as any other heavy metal horndog. On ”Figured You Out,” he sings, ”I like your pants around your feet/And I like the dirt that’s on your knees,” perhaps the lustiest opening gambit since AC/DC’s ”You Shook Me All Night Long.” Hey, only a cretin would deny genius like that.