Nickelback: Dark Horse

You either really love Nickelback or you really love to hate them, but six albums later, they must be doing something right to have lasted for this long.

That something right could very well probably be one of the most commercial sounds to hit rock n roll (or metal even) since Bob Rock produced The Black Album for Metallica in 1991. The said sound is composed of repetitive chords, monotonous drum beats, and constant mentions to 'paperback novels' in the lyrics. If you don't mind any of the above, you'll be glad to know Dark Horse, the latest offering from the Canadian rock band is more of the same-but taken up a notch.

Produced by legendary superstar producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange - whose previous productions include the albums of Foreigner, AC/DC, Bryan Adams, Def Leppard and Shania Twain - give an almost clear indication that everything on Dark Horse will be radio friendly and as geared to the mainstream as heavy guitar rock gets.

The grizzly sound of post grunge is given a jump start with first track, 'Something in Your Mouth'. The guitars are raw, almost like nails on a chalkboard, with a continuous wail in the background. The riff is interspersed with a groovy middle but the combination seems to be too crammed and you feel like you've listened to two different songs at the same time. 'Burn it to the Ground' was featured on the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen soundtrack and is characteristic of a Nickelback filler song because it shares the same structure to the track before it, but with just enough tweaks to make it sound slightly different. Unfortunately, this is probably one of the lesser lyrical songs of the band, making it sound more of an anthem for drunkards than anything. The saving grace for the song is the solo which albeit very short is could've been very interesting if explored further.

'Gotta Be Somebody' was the first single released from the album, and features another one of Nickelback's staple songs, the rock ballad. Chad Kroeger, the front man for the band, is at his true element here. After all he also sang the song 'Hero' for the Spiderman soundtrack. 'Hero' and 'Gotta Be Somebody' do share some similarities, but thankfully they aren't that much. This song proves that behind the grunge and behind the melodic rock, Nickelback can do so much better than it already is doing.

'I'd Come for You' is another ballad and the entire pace of the album slows down. The only thing that holds down this song are the cheesy lyrics: "I was blindfolded, but now I'm seeing, my mind was closing, now I'm believing." The song would make a befitting soundtrack to the next cheesy love story Hollywood throws our way.

The band makes it a point to pick up the pace after the previous track and 'Next Go Round' starts to hit the ground running. The harsh guitars and the throbbing drums sound like a freight train charging down at full speed. Again, like the previous songs, there isn't much lyrical substance going around here which is a shame really since the song has a very head banging thing going on for itself.

Just to prove that the band can do songs with proper substance and lyrical matter, 'Just to Get High' is just that. The story of a young man spiraling into a life of drugs and desperation, the tone and motif of the song equally desperate and melancholy. This is probably one of the few tracks on the album that save it.

'Never Gonna Be Alone' is what 'Photograph' was to the last album, the almost obligatory western track that the band feels that they have to do on each and every album. It's the kind of track that you'd expect from Shania Twain or LeAnn Rhimes, but Nickelback? On the plus side, it shows that the band wants to be diverse and not pigeon holed as a rock band.
About ten seconds into 'Shakin' Hands' you find yourself tapping your feet to it. The track sinks you in with its groovy beat but for some reason it never really takes off. The repetitiveness kills it.

The opening riff of 'S.E.X.', like the previous two tracks, are powerful and grab the listener in by the collar and demand to be heard. This is Nickelback's strength and why they're such a radio friendly band. Their music is simple and easy to listen to even if you don't appreciate or like rock music.

'If Today Was Your Last Day' sings the same tune as 'Gotta Be Somebody' or 'I'd come for you' but this one is considerably more feel good than the two. Also, much like 'Just to get high' this track saves the album from what would be a repetitive and monotonous demise.
The album finishes with 'This Afternoon' and it seems that keeping the best for last was probably a good idea for the band. This is a no-nonsense, easy going, feel good track about taking matters as they come and not have a worry in the world. It's almost like Nickleback saying they'll continue to making music the way they want to and won't give in to their critics.

All the Right Reasons was the band's previous release and spawned a plethora of singles, but this seems to be not for all the right reasons. The New York Times wrote about Dark Horse: "Nickelback's real crime isn't one of form. Rather it is that lurking beneath the band's undeniably pretty melodies are literal, wildly unimaginative and often insipid lyrics. Unlike, say, Hinder, which flaunts its brute sensibilities, Nickelback is quietly crass." And that was one of the better reviews they've gotten for Dark Horse.

That said, Nickelback has a very strong fan base, particularly among the listeners of bands like Creed (who are now defunct) or Alter Bridge or even Theory of a Deadman. These bands, along with Nickelback represent the new rock n roll sound, rising from the ashes of grunge and metal of the 90s and making a sound of their own for a generation of their own.

Hail Caesar!

Salads have always been the primary bastion of the dieter. Though if you’ve never had to diet (you lucky so and so!) chances are your idea of a salad is limited to a bunch of leaves scattered around vegetables amid a sea of bland taste. Well, you would be wrong. Salads can be exciting, tasty and nutritious, and all at once too.

One such case is the Caesar salad. Contrary to what you might think the salad wasn’t named after the Roman emperor. In fact, it was named after Caesar Cardini, an Italian-born chef living in California. According to legend, Cardini devised the recipe for the salad on a busy July the Fourth in the 1920s when he threw together some leftover ingredients from his depleted stocks to serve his hungry customers. The light but delicious salad caught the fancy of some film stars and soon became a celebrity in its own right. Since then the recipe for the salad has travelled around the world and has seen countless incarnations — but the salad remains as regal as ever in its taste and presentation.

A freshly served Caesar salad is a refreshing meal; light yet filling at the same time. The main ingredients include romaine lettuce, crushed garlic, raw or coddled, i.e. very lightly cooked egg yolks, Parmesan cheese and freshly prepared croutons.

This is then seasoned with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and often Worcestershire sauce. If one wishes to avoid the salt, they can sprinkle extra lemon juice — blood pressure patients should particularly take note here. The lime brings out the taste of the romaine lettuce; combine that with garlic and Parmesan cheese and you’ve got an exciting blend going. If you dislike lime and can’t use salt, then vinegar is the next best thing for you. The mix between the cheese and vinegar makes for a particularly interesting flavour, though some might call it an acquired taste.

One of the best things about Caesar salad is that it allows great flexibility — in fact you can do just about anything with it. If there is no romaine lettuce, substitute with any lettce you have on hand. Similarly, if you’re avoiding the salt and adding more lime, then you’re better off using Romano cheese rather than Parmesan. It’ll give you a slightly saltish tinge without having to use salt.

If your palate craves spice you can drizzle some hot sauce over the salad or add some sliced green chillies to the mix. For seasoning you can use ground pepper. If you’re not too concerned about your weight you can add mayonnaise as a dressing to give it a rich, creamy flavour.

For vegetarians this is definitely one of the best meals out there, but you meat lovers shouldn’t worry, because Caesar salad is also served with strips of chicken, beef, mutton and even fish such as ground up anchovies or even boiled shrimp. For those of you who think of salad as limp and soggy, the croutons provide a crunchy texture and will have you munching for more.

Caesar salad for lunch keeps you feeling alert and active through your workday; for dinner it’s the ideal meal for weight watchers. So, though it isn’t named for the famed Roman emperor, Caesar Salad will make even a commoner feel like royalty because it can be anything you want it to be.

Earth to Discovery!

On September 11, residents of the state of California thought they had experienced an earthquake. In reality, it was a dual sonic boom of the space shuttle Discovery returning to Earth that caused the rattling of windows in homes.

The space shuttle’s landing on Edwards Air Force Base was the result of a diverted landing plan that had the Kennedy Space Centre as its original landing area. This is not unusual for a space shuttle mission, but bad weather prevented the shuttle from landing at Kennedy, so Edwards was the next best choice.

This mission makes Discovery one of the oldest space faring vehicles as far as space shuttles are concerned. This mission, titled STS-128, has dealt with a variety of matters, mostly part of the International Space Station. The latest mission lasted for fourteen days and covered more than five million miles in space.

Discovery’s mission delivered two refrigerator-sized science racks to the International Space Station. These racks house sophisticated experimental equipment that will be used to research better material development on earth. They are also used for fluid physics research, to understand behavior of fluids in micro gravity. These could lead to improved designs for fuel tanks, water systems and other fluid-based systems. These experiments are vital to the International Space Station which continues to rely heavily on Nasa to re-supply and build it through its space shuttles.

Discovery also delivered a sleeping compartment, air purification and a treadmill to the space station. The mission included three spacewalks that replaced experiments outside the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory and an empty ammonia storage tank. Ammonia is used a coolant because of its liquid nature in the sub zero temperatures of space.

All in all, Discovery dropped off more than eight tons of supplies, life support gear and scientific equipment at the space station, leaving the space outpost better equipped to house crews of six astronauts. That figure alone goes to show you the importance of shuttle missions to the space station.

The mission was led by Commander Rick Sturckow who was joined on the mission by Pilot Kevin Ford, mission specialists Pat Forrester, Jose Hernandez, Danny Olivas and European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang. Struckow served as pilot on the first International Space Station assembly mission in 1998, and again in 2001.

Sturckow’s first command was on the STS-117 mission. Nasa astronaut Nicole Stott flew to the complex aboard Discovery to begin a nearly three-month mission as a station resident, replacing Tim Kopra, who returned home on Discovery.

A special crew member also returned during this mission. Disney’s toy astronaut Buzz Lightyear, from the Toy story animated movies, initially flew to the station in May 2008 on shuttle Discovery's STS-124 mission. He has now officially served as the longest tenured ‘crew member’ in space. While on the station, Buzz supported Nasa's education outreach by creating a series of online educational outreach programmes designed aseptically for children and young adults.

So far, Discovery has flown 35 of those flights, completed 4,888 orbits, and flown 117,433,618 miles in total, as of June 2008. Discovery is the orbiter fleet leader, having flown more flights than any other orbiter in the fleet, including four in 1985 alone. This mission also marked the 25th anniversary of its first launch on August 30, 1984.

And although it has just returned, plans for the next flight sometime in March 2010 are already underway. Discovery will be hoisted atop a Boeing 747 jumbo jet and flown back to Kennedy Space Station in Florida, where it will be recalibrated and fixed up for the 2010 mission.

Though the future of the International Space Station remains uncertain, Nasa is determined to continue missions to the station for as long as the space shuttle fleet remains in usage. The Space Shuttle Programme itself will be terminated in late 2010 or early 2011. This marks an era of space shuttle flights which has seen disasters such as the Challenger and Columbia, and as well as great feats such as the launch of the Space Telescope Hubble or the building of the International Space Station.

Even though the space shuttle will fold its wings and retire, Nasa will continue to expand its space programme, which includes a return mission to the moon and a planned mission to Mars.

First steps of both missions have started to take form in the proposed Orion spacecraft which is the replacement for the space shuttle and will come into service sometime in 2015.

Discovery’s journey might be coming to an end, but mankind’s journey of discovery is just about to begin.