Nickelback’s Photograph

by plermpt

Nickelback does not suck, Nickelback is actually really fuckin’ good.

I suck.

I suck because I always liked Nickelback and only just admitted it to myself.

My first memory of Nickelback required no forced recollection:

Our middle school track team was undefeated in the spring seasons of 2001 & 2002. I can recall my friends Dave and Devin joyfully singing the chorus for Nickelback’s How You Remind Me as we walked to the bus that took us to an away meet that we would win.

I took the chorus literally, and imagined traveling to the bottom of these bottles in a little boat. What would I find when I got there? Was I going to fit? These bottles were dark and wet at the bottom. I wondered how such a tiny place could be explored without getting forever trapped in the effervescent darkness.

Though I did not share in their delight for diverse genres like ska, punk, prog and alt rock, I was both impressed and intimidated by their knowledge of music, which dwarfed mine. Nobody except the kids that started a band in middle school knew as much about music as my friends, and I was proud to be their associate. I knew that my friends would teach me life’s lessons through the Nickelback lyrics I overheard.

I will never know why it became uncool to like Nickelback.

For the years between my recent rediscovery I adventured through thousands of forgettable hours of modern music. Names, genres, collaborations all became lost to the obscurity from which they were dredged.

But Nickelback, faint to the point of invisibility, somehow remained within me.

Instead of focusing on the present I sometimes find myself dwelling on the past. Images of my past lives overtake me, and I think I long for a period of innocence that I convince myself is much better than my present.

When I went to buy beans the other week I heard Nickelback’s Photograph played on the grocery radio. As I thought about the last time I saw someone I no longer share any common interests, and how indifferent I would be if I did ever see them again, I heard Chad’s sentiment mirror mine before his voice betrayed an orgasm of nostalgia. It can either be described as my genetic predisposition to this song’s arrangement, or a fully realized destiny, but that Nickelback sound was uncanny.

I returned home and was so effortlessly focused on hearing that song immediately that I diverted no diversions. Chad always knew that we would find each other.

Why does “Nickelback suck”?

Because Chad looks like a hip, disinfected Christ and not some ken doll knock off like Adam Levine? I don’t know. Whatever the haters believe, Nickelback turns the other cheek. In my opinion Chad’s regular guy look adds to the appeal of his godly voice.

Photograph is one of my perfect songs. It’s alt-country twang, dramatized by Chad’s gruffly warming voice, distracted me from my reflections, and invited me to fixate on his.


Like a real rock song Photograph doesn’t make me wait. There is no intro; when the song begins so does Chad: he urges me to “look at this photograph,” smiling like a little kid with a secret that he can’t wait to blab. In the same instant that I am warmed by Chad’s genuine smile I watch his eyes mature as they sigh in reflection for days passed.

The titular photograph looks like it was taken the day before the music video was shot, at a party where Chad blacked out. If not, it looks like Chad hasn’t aged a minute. But why the fairly recent picture with Joey? Why not a picture from those semi-formative middle school years? Because what began as clawing into the dark memory of the previous night becomes a flaneur down memory lane. Suddenly, we’re at Chad’s childhood home, before it was probably abandoned with a nested swarm of coons.

As the song plays Chad laments that he never graduated from middle school. Jail was his school after he set fire to an arcade where he wasted all of his money. Chad is visibly disappointed with himself, and wants to go back to middle school to graduate, but the administration will not let him. Chad was never on an undefeated track team like me, so he begins to scream.

I miss the town, the faces, can’t erase, can’t replace it

It’s too late for Chad to graduate from middle school due to Nickelback’s success. His presence would disrupt the entire class!

If I can be humbled by offering my advice to Chad on the sickness of nostalgia it would be to stay the hell away from all of his former schools. They have changed within, and the only place they will forever live undisturbed is in the mind. I retreat to my mind because I do not have any photographs. I only have Joeys. But even the Joeys can change.

And I fondly remember “the school” that was more like an old post office and it had a nice ledge and was always locked and empty so we hung out there because nobody ever told us to leave. It was down the street from Dave’s house. I imagine Chad breaking into this “post office” building and smoking a bowl with Joey. And Joey puts that big silver bowl on his head, and Chad laughs and laughs and tears are in his eyes. Someone who never existed snapped the photo of those two guys, and I want to hurry up and finish the memory because I am already bored of it and really want to a move on because it’s over, I’ve reached the bare minimum for the memory to stick and I want to leave and do anything else because someday when I am in a grocery store I will again be reminded of a memory that needs not be remembered, except as an indicator of a time in which I was stupider, and life was simpler, when I couldn’t accurately predict how infrequently I would see my friends until they disappeared from me and forever became photographs.

I can’t believe it. Too hard to stay, to hard to leave.

Chad’s hard voice trails in contemplation, sprinkled with regret before he rocks out for the final chorus. This is what Dave and Devin expressed all of those photographs ago…

Chad took me here to say goodbye so I can say hello to new memories that I will someday say goodbye to.

So am I undermining the message of Photograph by looping it?