No Doubt – Push and Shove (2012)

Posted: September 20, 2012 in Music

Formed back in 1986 in Anaheim, California, No Doubt had literally no chance on the alternative music scene at the time. After all, it was a time for Nirvana. An era of Guns and Roses. A time for heavy and serious (and ugly) music.

But that didn’t seem to bother songstress Gwen Stefani and crew. Their pop-fused brand of light-hearted ska-punk found its way into the hearts of fans and slowly crept into the alternative playlists of almost every radio station on the planet. They maintained the energy and angst of the time, but did it with a smile and playfulness whose charm matched Stefani’s pinup good looks. And the success held up. As other bands faded from the spotlight, No Doubt’s momentum seemed to grow and grow. With 33 million albums sold and a duffel bag full of hit singles and five chart topping albums, the band suddenly called it quits in 2003.

For Stefani, the locomotive of success kept rolling, as she released two well-received solo albums, had two children (with husband and Bush lead singer Gavin Rossdale) and launched a highly-sought-after clothing line. For the rest of the band, they drifted off into obscurity faster than a speeding bullet.

Stefani’s success was even more amazing when you consider the metamorphosis her style went through. Gone was the rebellious punk – replaced with more of a pop/diva persona – but it played well, and fans took the leap right along side of her. The ease of Gwen’s transition made it all the more mind-boggling when she announced in 2008 that a No Doubt reunion was in the works. Fans (like me) of the original band were overjoyed (I didn’t really care for the solo albums) at the thought of a “back-to-roots” album of good old-fashioned rawk and fun, and after four long years of waiting, the album finally hit shelves September 25th.

Before you go running out to pick up this album, though – pay heed. Did you ever lose a tooth only to have your parent’s forgot to play “tooth fairy,” turning that morning excitement of a shiny quarter under your pillow into the sheer horror of that tooth still lying there? That’s kind of the experience here.

The record starts off earnestly enough with the first single “Settle Down.” The catchy track was released way back in July as more of an “announcement” that the album was really finished, but quickly found its way to the top end of most radio charts. There is a little of everything here – from modern dance beats to Stefani’s trademark vocals and even a hint of familiar island/reggae influence. It felt a little safe, and a bit on the mainstream side of things, but was a decent start.

From there, however, things immediately start to disintegrate. The next couple of tracks – “Looking Hot” and “One More Summer” – are really nothing more than dance tracks in the style of say Katy Perry or Madonna. For a band that used to punch me in the face with their energy and attitude, these were both pretty wimpy by comparison.

Not until the album’s title track did things kick into gear. “Push and Shove” was definitely recognizable as a No Doubt track, throwing out a “dancehall-reggae-on-speed” vibe that was as fresh as it was familiar. The chorus shifted gears to a snail’s crawl, but that only added to the album’s strongest effort.

Hope was again squashed by the next three tracks. “Easy,” “Gravity,” and “Undercover” offered up more disco dancing and more disappointment. At this point, I was really wondering why the band even got back together. I’m sure that Tony Kanal, Adrian Young, and Tom Dumant actually played on this album, but with all the digital tracking and looping you’d be tempted to think otherwise. The truth is, at this point the album would have been better served as Stefani’s third solo album instead of such a long-awaited, highly-anticipated comeback of one of the 90’s most loved bands. I can completely understand the “changing with the times” philosophy a lot of bands take, but this is so far removed from their other albums, that I think they just simply forgot who they were.

There is some redemption, however, in some of the later tracks. “Undone,” for example, is the dreaded ballad in the bunch, but actually showcases the band members playing their instruments. Normally I hate ballads, but the musicianship was a welcome relief from the rest of the albums over-produced sound. Horns used to be a staple for No Doubt, and we finally get them in the UB40-esque “Sparkle” (which is easily the most familiar sounding track on the disc). Even the following track “Heaven” teetered on acceptable with it’s new-wave/alternative patterns and tempo.

“Dreaming the Same Dream” closes the album out in boring fashion with yet another dose of vanilla dance-pop. Honestly, my opinion on this track is only valid for about the first 30 seconds or so, as I gave up on the song – more because it sounded exactly like so many other of the low points on the album.

And it’s these low-points (and the mass amount of them) that have me giving Push and Shove some pretty low marks. Maybe it was the anticipation of something I knew wasn’t going to happen, or the fact that it sounded more like a Pink album most of the time, but No Doubt has left little “doubt” in my mind about where they plan on taking their sound. A sound that used to echo so loudly with vibrance and attitude has fallen victim to plain ol’ boring pop music, and it’s a shame.

Fans of Stefani’s solo work may enjoy this as the next step in her evolution as a singer, but fans of the band’s earlier work should stay away from this at all cost. There are much better albums on the horizon from other artists that are sure to please you more than this.

Damn you, Tooth Fairy…

3/10

Tracklist:
01 – Settle Down
02 – Looking Hot
03 – One More Summer
04 – Push And Shove (Feat. Busy Signal And Major Lazer)
05 – Easy
06 – Gravity
07 – Undercover
08 – Undone
09 – Sparkle
10 – Heaven
11 – Dreaming The Same Dream

Buy at Amazon

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