Hell hath no fury like metal fans "scorned."
On July, 17, Savannah, Georgia, Baroness released its anticipated double record, Yellow and Green. Embraced by the kind of people who often ignore metal and backhandedly complimented as a "thinking man's metal band," Baroness' string of recordings -- First, Second, A Grey Sigh in a Flower Husk, Red, and Blue -- have been inspiring and consistent in quality.
Yellow and Green, with its sprawling two-disc format and significantly more pop-minded approach, has thrown fans for a loop. Because, according to the experts in the YouTube comment sections, "it sounds like Nickelback."
In a word: kinda. If by Nickelback you mean "pop-focused guitar rock," then yes.
I'm going to suggest that there are more direct parallels than the much-loathed Canadian rock band. Yellow and Green does indeed find songwriter, vocalist, and mutli-instrumentalist John Dyer Baizley, drummer/keyboardist Allen Blickle, and guitarist/vocalist Pete Adams (bassist Matt Maggioni joined after the record was completed) embracing the sheen and melodicism of modern rock, aligning their heavy sound with the nuevo prog sounds of Muse and Thrice ("Sea Lungs"), or the straight forward riffage of Weezer and The Foo Fighters ("Take My Bones Away," "March to the Sea".
There are deeper associations, too: the angular post-hardcore of "The Line Between," the '70s boogie-funk of "Cocanium" (you almost imagine hearing a clavinet), the stuttering disco beat of "Little Things," finger-picking excursion "Stretchmaker," the swooning elegy "I Forget Thee, Lowcountry." It's stuffed to the brim with ideas and experimental passion, but it never loses its footing, never forsakes songcraft in favor of flashy moves.
It's a monster of a record, creative and solid. So what does any of that have to do with Nickelback? Not much, really. It's more about the idea. Yellow and Green's most pop-friendly moments could -- and should -- wind up dominating the radio. It's hard to imagine a Nickelback album this creative and adventurous, but it's equally tough for protective fans of sludge, doom, drone, and experimental metal to stomach the idea that you could slot "March to the Sea" into a rotation with Seether, System of a Down, Nickelback, and Five Finger Death Punch on KUPD and call it "active rock."
Of course, that doesn't mean Baroness is going to take over the FM airwaves, at least not in a town like this. There's not a lot of alt-rock on the Phoenix FM dial (KWSS doesn't reach the entire Valley, and doesn't play much metal), and it appears that the thoroughly aggressive modern rock station KUPD has been incorporating more and more alternative-type programming, punky bands Rise Against, and old (read: old) standbys like Nirvana and Everclear. Not exactly sort of cutting edge stuff that powerful (but still relatively small) indie labels like Relapse, Sub Pop, Matador, or Vagrant put out.
Still, pop fans might not even need the radio to hear and fall in love with Baroness. The power of Spotify can't be underestimated (or even estimated much this early in the game), but it puts a vast collection of sounds at the average listeners fingertips. For now, it seems like the Phoenicians are mostly using the service to listen to exactly the same stuff the radio plays, but who's to say that record as accessible as Yellow and Green couldn't break through the noise, uniting whole cross-sections of rock fans. I think music listeners are a lot more interested than they get credit for.
Baroness doesn't sound like Nickelback so much as Yellow and Green sounds like the kind of record a Nickelback fan could theoretically like. That's one of the record's greatest accomplishments, achieving a thoughtful, artful balance between pop accessibility and pushing sonic boundaries. It's not pop fans who are ready to tune out, it's the diehards. There's a nobility to that approach, for sure, the kind of hardline stance that keep listeners glued to the underground, searching for lesser known bands to triumph and champion (and falling into the sort of trap where, you know, listening to Nirvana on the radio sounds appealing).
For now, it's enough that Yellow and Green is the sort of record you can play for you meathead bro and his brainy younger brother. That's a rare sort of thing. Does Baroness sound like Nickelback?
Sure. In Nickelback's dreams.
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