To a generation of Gaga-averse rock fans, Nickelback have become the inspirational torchbearers of postgrunge. That's not just because the Canadian foursome sold a combined 21 million copies of their last six albums when no one was buying records. It's also that, for every ode to girls or parties or pharmaceutical-filled Pez dispensers, there's a song that doubles as a sermon (''If Today Was Your Last Day,'' ''Gotta Be Somebody''). Plus, they've never been shy about wanting to Live the Dream which, according to 2006's awesome arena-pummeler ''Rockstar,'' mostly involves being famous enough to score free quesadillas.
And yet their ambitions may get the best of them on Here and Now (out Nov. 21), an album that finds frontman Chad Kroeger volunteering to ''kick a hole in the sky.'' Brian Howes and Joey Moi, who co-produced the album with Nickelback, polish a few excellent scrape-the-Metrodome-ceiling riffs (''Don't Ever Let It End''), but the lyrics between cries for world peace (on the semi-acoustic ''When We Stand Together'') and anti-fame diatribes (on the industrial rocker ''Kiss It Goodbye'') just sound silly. Worse, Kroeger seems bored, wasting hours watching Baywatch reruns (''Gotta Get Me Some'') and conjuring up creepy metaphors for...something. (Hint: ''She's gonna lick my pistol clean,'' ''[She] doesn't want a lollipop/But she sure loves a sucker,'' ''She's got a dirty mouth/Tastes so clean with every taste of me,'' etc.) He's way better off when he sticks to rousing, bro-uniting fare like ''Bottoms Up,'' a treatise on trickle-down economics. Just kidding! That one's about booze. C+