Album: Push and Shove
Release Date: Sept. 25
Pitchforks: 4 out of 5
Label: Interscope Records
Don’t call it a comeback. It may be No Doubt’s first studio album since 2001’s “Rock Steady,” but the ska band is quick to correct those who want to call its 11 years in between records anything other than an extended creative process.
“We never split up,” singer Gwen Stefani told the U.K.’s The Sun.
The band recently revealed that they got together to work on the new album in 2008, but the timing seemed off. After the releasing of two solo albums, which Stefani admitted were never supposed to be taken seriously, subsequent solo tours and working on raising families, it wasn’t like the band members were sitting around doing nothing. All four members are married with kids and speak of how challenging getting everyone into the studio was.
The result of these last 11 years is “Push and Shove,” a catchy record that’s more pop than punk, but doesn’t entirely abandon their ska and reggae roots.
There will be fans who bemoan that “Push and Shove” doesn’t sound like the “real” No Doubt. Assuming they are referring to how the band sounded in the mid-90s during the “Tragic Kingdom” days, this would be correct. However, “Push and Shove” isn’t that big of a departure from what the band did with “Rock Steady,” and a more accurate complaint would be that many of the songs sound more like Stefani’s solo work.
Eleven years later, the band has released a polished record that fits in with the times. It doesn’t mean No Doubt sold out, rather it means that it still has a finger on the pulse of popular music. “Rock Steady” may have been ahead of its time — if it were released today, it would probably be met with the same reception as “Push and Shove.” It’s not highly original or groundbreaking, but it’s a good, polished and cohesive record that contains a decent amount of potential hits.
The first single, “Settle Down” debuted July 16 and seemed a suitable choice given its dance hall style. Next up is the Diplo-produced title track, “Push and Shove,” featuring Busy Signal and Major Lazer, an electronic dance extravaganza that could easily have another group’s name on it, if it weren’t for Stefani’s recognizable vocals and the bands trademark horns.
The third standout is the album’s second track, “Looking Hot,” a dizzy and catchy number in which the 42-year-old Stefani asks, “Do you think I’m looking hot?” to which the incredibly obvious answer is a resounding “yes.”
The album blends together, albeit in a pleasant sort of way. Many of the songs, like “One More Summer,” “Easy” and “Dreaming the Same Dream” sound like they could have been found on “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.” or “The Sweet Escape.” It’s when the horns blare and when Stefani’s vocals give way to Tom Dumont’s guitar that the band really shines. “Gravity” includes electronic quips reminiscent of “Rock Steady,” and “Heaven” is fun, but nothing remarkable.
The curveball is in the song “Undone” which is a stripped down ballad that sounds like it would be better suited for a country music album than a No Doubt album.
“Sparkle” is one of the better songs, deserving to be named a single. The ska sound is classic No Doubt and proves the band knows what they’re good at and what it takes to write a hit song. Stefani may be singing that it’s “never, ever, ever gonna be the same,” but if this is the band’s version of different, that’s quite all right.
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