No Doubt disappoints with new sound, album
After an 11-year hiatus, No Doubt is finally back with its long-awaited sixth album. During their time off, the band members dabbled in side projects and collaborations, and lead singer Gwen Stefani notably released successful solo dance-pop albums.
After lots of talk about a new (and long-overdue) album, the band has finally released Push and Shove, which is firmly in the running for the most dissatisfying album of the year.
Originally formed in 1986, No Doubt garnered attention for its unique and seamless blend of ska, punk and pop sounds. Though its eponymous first album dropped in 1992, the band didnât gain fame until 1995âs Tragic Kingdom. Stefaniâs pitch-perfect vocals and the bandâs tight production complemented the genre-jumping music, and the album has remained No Doubtâs most successful, reaching Diamond certification in the United States alone.
The more mature Return Of Saturn followed in Tragic Kingdomâs gargantuan footsteps and the bandâs success reached a new, more mainstream audience with 2001âs Rock Steady.
The difference between No Doubt and Rock Steady is vast â the 1992 No Doubt employs a quirky, original sound, while the 2001 No Doubt has more of a conventional pop sound. Though the bandâs slow descent into the realm of Top 40 became more evident with each album, Push and Shove somehow still comes as a surprising disappointment.
Maybe itâs because the expectations were too high or because No Doubt has simply grown out of their ska-punk roots â whatever the case might be, the quartetâs new album sounds like a completely different band than the one that started out in the late â80s, and not in a good way. Other than âSettle Down,â âSparkle,â and the questionable title track, the ska vibe that used to define the band is completely discarded for an extremely dancey and superficial sound.
âSettle Downâ might be a little too produced for die-hard No Doubt fans, but the opener is solid enough and representative of the bandâs claim to fame.
What follows, however, is virtually an entire album of forgettable tracks. An overly produced club/dance sound overpowers most of Push and Shove, as with âEasyâ and âDreaming the Same Dream,â which take the listener back to the bad part of the 1980s.
The band reaches a somewhat happy balance between its roots and its new direction with âGravity.â Though the song is super poppy, it doesnât make you long for 1998, back when No Doubt still made great music. In regard to this album, thatâs a compliment.
Itâs not just the music thatâs jaw-droppingly out of character for the band â itâs the lyrical frivolity. Gone is the social commentary of âTrapped In A Box,â the clever relationship woes of âExcuse Me Mr.â and âHey You,â the witty charm of âBathwaterâ and âNew.â What we have now are gems like, âThis is my diversion / Go ahead and stare / Iâm a ragamuffinâ (from âLooking Hotâ).
Or how about the painfully puerile, âA cat up in a tree / Want you to get me down but Iâm scared of what Iâll see / I need a private eye / To see through your disguiseâ (from âUndercoverâ)?
If youâre looking for something more profound, thereâs always âUndone,â which starts with the painfully trite, âIâm broke / Let me show you where it hurts.â Stefaniâs proven she can be better than this.
On a purely lyrical level, itâs hard not to wonder: How did the unique and talented singer from the original No Doubt go from the snarling, sarcastic âJust A Girlâ to crooning âIâm a hustler, babyâ with a straight face?
Another disappointment of the album, for that matter, are the vocals. Stefani ditched the heavy vibrato that made her inimitable and famous around the time of Rock Steady, and her once-signature voice has now evolved into whiny territory.
The fact of the matter is that No Doubt will most likely hit a new audience, which seems to be the goal. Many songs on the album sound like David Guetta B-sides; and though some might take that as a compliment, among the old-school No Doubt fan base, thatâs anything but. The last bits of the bandâs edge that remained on Rock Steady are all but gone now.
If Push and Shove was one of Stefaniâs solo projects, the album would be mediocre, at best. But under the No Doubt banner, the album is a monumental disappointment.
Itâs understandable that a group would want to evolve, but the best kind of evolution is one that doesnât leave old fans behind. New fans will most definitely be made with this record, but for die-hard No Doubt fans, Push and Shove will stand as a meaningless statement from a once-meaningful band.