Rock Song Review: Nickelback – “Edge of a Revolution”

In addition to pop song reviews, I’m also going to cover new rock singles whenever I can, even if they haven’t technically been released as singles. I might even alternate between rock and pop if I can. So, here’s my review for the new Nickelback song, “Edge of a Revolution.”

First impressions: Given the talk about the new Nickelback stuff being a change in direction from previous material, I can tell you this: lyrically it’s very much a shift, but musically it’s pretty standard Nickelback hard rock and not too much of a jump from their previous album: loud, heavy, catchy… but then this is just the first single. Maybe their reggae-dubstep experiment is still to come?

The music: “Edge of a Revolution” is defined by its marching riff set to pounding drums, likely designed to evoke the approaching stomp of a discontented crowd. Comparisons have been drawn between this song and 2011’s “Gotta Get Me Some,” which makes sense – they both have a slow, grinding groove stemming from a heavier-than-hell riff – but where “Gotta Get Me Some” went for sleazy swagger, “Edge of a Revolution” goes for chest-beating aggression. It does feel more like a victory chant than the rush of revolution, which is strange considering the song’s title implies we haven’t even got to the revolution yet – but maybe I’m putting too much thought into it.

You might feel that the repetition of “standing on the edge of a revolution” gets repetitive after a while, but I think it provides a nice cap to each verse. Pop music relies on the listener knowing what to expect – it’s why the perfect cadence and the four chords of pop music are as popular as they are – and Nickelback, even in their heavier moments, are pretty much pop songwriters, so I’m cool with it. The chorus is a bit too similar to the verses for my ears, though, and could have done with another, more distinctive hook to separate itself from the rest of the song. Still, rather catchy stuff.

The lyrics: Given that Nickelback’s lyrical focus has been somewhat constrained in recent years, it’s nice to hear that they are at least trying to say something different and speak out about world problems. “Wall Street, common thief / When they get caught, they all go free / A brand new yacht and a finder’s fee” is some pretty clever lyricism by Nickelback standards and, even if you don’t like Nickelback, you have to admit that some effort was put into this.

Problem is, a lot of it is too vague to have the impact they were going for. “No, we can’t turn back, we can’t turn away” – away from what? “‘Cos it’s time we all relied on the last solution” – which would be? I’m guessing they mean revolution, but some specificity would have helped here, or at least some different wording – “last solution” might provoke some, er, troubling comparisons.

Basically, like most songs about revolution or class dissent its biggest crime is that it never really specifies why we need a revolution or how anyone would go about putting one together. I get that this is a four-minute rock song and that we shouldn’t expect academic levels of theoretical approach, but if your intent is to actually kick off a mass revolt maybe you should put more thought into your poetry than “we’re angry because oppression. Grrr!”?

Then again, even the Clash never really went all that in-depth with their political statements. Also, revolutions have a nasty history of not actually working out all that well for the masses involved, so there’s that. Maybe a polite lettering campaign would be better?

Verdict: “Edge of a Revolution” gets a 3 out of 5 from me. If you’re one of the many people who don’t like Nickelback this might not change your mind about them, but it’s got a better chance of doing so than anything else they’ve released in a while. As a big Nickelback fan myself, this is a promising, if not incendiary sign of things to come: it’s loud, aggressive and catchy with a nice stomping beat and, though it likely won’t cause any actual revolt (though to be fair, how many songs can you say actually have?), it should go down a storm at concerts.

Today’s double-up is Chickenfoot’s “Avenida Revolucion” – now here’s a song to get your blood going for the uprising. I should also point out that this was a fan video designed to throw a light on the situation discussed in the song. Flippin’ good effort as well.

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