I’m one of those people who leaves the television on in the background when I do anything at home because I like the noise. While I was cleaning the other day, a new Nickelback song came on and distracted me. Nickelback is fascinating because they mixed together everything that sucks—goatees, eyebrow piercings, male bob haircuts, Paul Reed Smith guitars, manicured facial hair, and power grunge—and made obscene amounts of money. Their album All The Right Reasons sold eight million copies in the US alone. Take a second to process that. The strange thing is that you never meet anyone who likes them—I know a guy who says he’s a fan, but he’s also from Canada, so maybe he’s just being loyal, or polite (you know how Canadians are.)
Anyway, a few notes into this track on the TV and Nickelback was bumming my ears out like they always do. I glanced up at the screen in disgust and my jaw dropped: It wasn't Nickelback. Who the fuck tries to sound like this in 2012? It had to be some mid-90s alt-rock band I’d never heard, right? Or possibly a Nickelback tribute band that I’m just not aware of because I live in a city? Then “Gaslight Anthem / ‘45’” scrolled across the bottom of the screen, and I short-circuited. I know Gaslight Anthem. They’re one of those bands that your friend who “used to be into music” tells you about and says you'll “love.” He heard them on NPR or read about them in the Times (he doesn’t say New York Times) and thought of you. How cute! Anyone who calls me their friend is fucking nuts if they think I'd click on a link to hear them.
Actually, I didn’t even need to hear Gaslight Anthem to know they suck, all I had to do was read their list of influences: They’re suburban dudes who used to like bands on Fueled By Ramen, and maybe Jawbreaker, before they discovered “real rock ‘n’ roll.” Bands like this go on about how Nebraska or Blonde on Blonde changed their lives, but when you hear their music it's just a Blink 182 beat and a fart noise.
It gets worse: Apparently, their brand of “anthem punk” (according to their Wiki page) is “part of a rich tradition of New Jersey punk, spanning the Misfits to the Bouncing Souls. The Gaslight Anthem's music also embraces many elements of the Jersey Shore sound.” What the fuck is the Jersey Shore sound other than pulsing techno and orange people shouting in Sopranos accents over it? They also have nothing to do with the Misfits, other than both being bands.
In these situations, I just thank God I’m from Massachusetts so I missed out on what I call the “Steen Gene.” This usually is present in all males from New Jersey, parts of New York State, and Pennsylvania. Later in life, this mutation sometimes manifests in symptoms that can include purchasing a four-track recording device and pursuing a solo music career. Even after giving up on theirs stints as a “singer-songwriter,” Steen Geners often force their friends to listen to them talk about how fucking great Bruuuuce is on a long car ride to the beach. Fuck that, and fuck Gaslight’s bullshit working-class American emotive nonsense.
This live version of “45” taken from the Jimmy Fallon Show solidifies my hatred for this band. Someone take the effects pedal board away from homeboy on guitar and cut the hood of his sweatshirt so he can’t wear it up indoors—he’s a grown man. Also, if you are still in denial that this shitty band sounds like Nickelback, watch this video and tell me the singer isn’t doing that meatball-stuck-in-his-throat thing that grunge guys do.
By not singing with the “Eddie Vedder chin” and by wearing “cool” clothing, the front guy may have tricked some people who still like Crimpshrine, but really this is the collision of some B-level Fat Wreck band and grunge pop. And it’s definitely not a group “drawing from the earnest confessionals of the Replacements, the cocksure swagger of the Clash and the indefatigable charisma of their homestate hero Bruce Springsteen,” as Rolling Stone puts it. If this is a “unique blend of punk and folk topped with a double dose of sincerity,” then I guess sincerity is a unique blend of Chad Kroeger’s goatee, Fat Mike’s diarrhea, and a double dose of a super shitty idea.