Something fairly seismic took place in rock this week. Nickelback, the go-to hate figure for a generation of young moshers, faced something of a reassessment from the number one orchestrator of their hate campaign – Slipknot’s Corey Taylor.
Appearing on Tuesday’s Jonesy’s Jukebox, a radio show hosted by Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, Taylor eve went as far as to say he loves that Nickelback are “passing the baton” after years of widespread ridicule. What’s more, he aimed his crosshairs at another act, claiming that actually, Imagine Dragons are more hated than the ‘Back these days.
For those not so well-versed in the decade-plus beef between Taylor and Nickelback, this is like Kim Jong-Il admitting that maybe he’s been a bit of a dickhead to South Korea all along. Only with more pyrotechnics and down-tuned riffing.
I’ve laid my life on the line for Nickelback time and time again for this website, so frankly, this is admittedly-generic-rock-music to my ears. Are we finally due the Nickelback reappraisal I’ve been waiting for all this time? If Imagine Dragons are the new whipping boys of music, surely a full retraction is in order? Let’s consider the evidence.
Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger is an easy target for ridicule – even I can admit that. With his eerily gleaming teeth, his gormless expression, his gravel-throated vocal and his talent for making any haircut he attempts look like a packet of Super Noodles at various stages of the cooking process, the Kroegster’s a magnet for shit-talking.
But let’s consider the competition here. Imagine Dragons’ figurehead, Dan Reynolds, has made a career out of tunelessly shouting like an auto-tuned TV chef. That ‘Radioactive’ track is like a Gordon Ramsay compilation put to an EDM backing. It’s woeful. It also has over one billion plays on YouTube.
Reynolds’ penchant for strolling around shirtless doesn’t really help proceedings, either – neither does his insistence on dressing like an alcopop-chugging bro.
Unfortunately for Kroeger, for every irritating trait Reynolds might possess, he has a well-meaning one to counteract it. Whether it’s raising $1 million for organisations that support LGBT rights, or opening up about his struggles with depression, it’s hard to hate his morals. Even if it’s really, really easy to hate his music.
Who’s worst?: Imagine Dragons 0 – 1 Nickelback
Ah yes, the music. You see, for all the bile directed their way, Nickelback’s musical output is actually impressively diverse. From acoustic balladry to the chugging, mosh-swirling likes of ‘Feed The Machine’, there’s far more on offer than the haters would like to suggest. The latter of that duo wouldn’t sound out of place on any highly-regarded metal festival’s bill (fight me, crusties), while their more plaintive numbers are perfect fodder for a tearjerking telly show or two.
Imagine Dragons, though? Hum me a single one of their songs which isn’t already-established-turdfest ‘Radioactive’. Their most recent album, ‘Origins’, is a shitshow. In our two-star review of the record (fuck me, we’re generous sometimes), we wrote: “‘Stuck’ sounds like a Maroon 5 reject, and boasts the faux-emotive lyrics: ‘Time goes by and still I’m stuck on you’.” Maroon 5 reject. These songs aren’t even good enough for Maroon fucking 5. End it all.
They’ve become the first band to top festival bills and fill arenas with a discography entirely primed for car adverts – there’s not a single song that has even the slightest bit of edge, every millisecond polished ‘til it resembles an AI interpretation of artistic expression. Bin it all.
Who’s worst?: Imagine Dragons 1 – 1 Nickelback
Regardless of your stance on Nickelback’s musical wares, it’s hard to knock their passion. One of the last huge rock bands of a bygone era, they’re the plucky underdogs of the arena-rock circuit, flying a flag for the slowly eroding world of guitar music in the fact of an endless shitstorm. Live, they’re even more endearing, admitting to, referencing and – at times – even agreeing with their position as the runts of rock’s litter. They laugh it off – more than most acts as under-fire as they are could manage. That’s right: Nickelback have banter.
You know who doesn’t have banter? Imagine Dragons. Painfully earnest in every way, they’re the musical equivalent of a Poundland fridge magnet adorned with an inspiring phrase. You know the one’s – “Shoot for the stars – even if you miss, you’ll land on the moon”, or “Stars can’t shine without darkness”, or whatever other trite bullshit your distant cousin is peddling via their kitchen ornaments this week. Hold them to your ear and you can hear ‘Radioactive’ playing in the distance. (I really fucking hate that ‘Radioactive’ song.)
Who’s worst?: Imagine Dragons 2 – 1 Nickelback
Nickelback have weathered a lot of storms, though none more turbulent than their 15-year beef with Slipknot’s Corey Taylor. Taylor fucking hates Nickelback, you see. He’ll let you know at any opportunity. And as rock’s premier mouthpiece, that bile holds a lot of weight.
Only… wait. He’s let off the gas a little. What’s more, he’s turned his attentions to someone else. That’s right. Imagine Dragons.
Not only that, but he’s admitted that “people are slowly coming back to appreciate Nickelback [have you been reading NME, mate?] and then just turning their irksome ire toward Imagine Dragons.” This is huge. Nickelback are officially off the hook. Imagine Dragons, prepare for a decade and a half of headline-baiting smackdowns.
Who’s worst?: Imagine Dragons 3 – 1 Nickelback
Imagine Dragons, congratulations. You’re so shit, we’ve had to rearrange the Official Rankings Of Bands Everyone Has To Hate For Some Reason. You’re now number one. Nickelback, you’re vindicated. Well done for sticking it out – we’ll see you on the victory lap world tour. Please play ‘Someday’.