Say what you will about NICKELBACK as played-to-death rock radio merchants or tried and true creators of strip club staples, but they've never forgotten how to rock hard and write a hook. Setting aside the slew of admittedly catchy, though often irksomely clichéd songs (and worsened by radio inundation) like "Rock Star", "Photograph", or "Hero", the quartet, to its credit, is still in a big guitar-oriented, hard-rockin' band. That continues to be the case on "Here and Now", an album that offers a surprising amount of drive and punch, as well a few of those catchy 'n cliché single-ready tracks.
At the heart of the matter on "Here and Now" are quite a few rockers in comparison to the prepackaged commercial nuggets. Then again, that's less a qualification than a recognition that much of that really only matters to those unwilling to accept this band's hit-writing prowess. The album counts among its tracks a number of adrenaline-pumped power riffsters, no better represented than with "Midnight Queen", as well as "This Means War". Both are crunchy romps of some magnitude. But then so are a few other tracks, including a song in "Bottoms Up" that happens to match that riff-forward approach with a chorus that sticks and stays in the head, whether you want it to or not. Similar sentiments apply to "Gotta Get me Some" and "Kissing it Goodbye".
Much of the overt pop-oriented material at a minimum gets the job done, albeit with less consistency. For a song that seems as though it's been written many times in the past by any number of pop rock bands, "Lullaby" still manages to reel in the listener. Another in a long line of surefire hits is the borderline danceable "We Stand Together" The ballad-esque "Trying Not To Love You" doesn't fare quite as well; its sappiness overpowering the melodic appeal. The same problem afflicts "Holding on to Heaven", "Don't Ever Let it End", and "Everything I Wanna Do" to varying degrees. Collectively, those final four tracks, while not necessarily subpar, slow the momentum gained from the seven preceding tracks.
Popularity always breeds contempt from a certain faction of rock fans. But the numbers that come out in droves in support of NICKELBACK's growing collection of hits drowns out the shrill cries of that community segment. Any way you look at it, "Here and Now" is a solid addition to NICKELBACK's continually expanding catalogue of pop-based rock albums, even if it breaks little new musical terrain. You're guaranteed to hear at least two of the songs in regular rotation soon at your local gentlemen's club. Count on it.