Artistic return is Doubtful: Push and Shove review
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Album: Push and Shove
Artist: No Doubt
Release Date: Sept. 25
In the 11 years it’s taken pop-ska band No Doubt to record a new album, it’s fairly possible some fans have forgotten the band’s signature sound.
Judging by their newest release, however, it appears the only ones who are in dire need of a reminder are the band members themselves.
On Sept. 25, No Doubt released Push and Shove, their first album since 2001’s Rock Steady. But where the latter was an inspired mix of both electronic effects and the classic No Doubt dub style, Push and Shove is a collection of breezy synth-reliant pop songs that merely hints at a reggae-influence, ultimately leaving fans wanting more.
“Settle Down,” the album’s first single, was promising. The chorus is danceable and their famous dancehall vibe is blatant. When it was released this past summer, it gave fans hope that No Doubt was about to make a triumphant return, trumpets blazing.
The result was quite the opposite. As each song on the album advances, the band seems to move further away from their established identity, resulting in an album that could almost pass for Gwen Stefani’s second solo record.
And any old-school No Doubt fan will agree – this is not a good thing.
“Heaven” begins with a synthesized riff that sounds like it could be the introduction to any generic radio dance song, begging to be remixed and blasted at techno clubs. Tracks “One More Summer” and “Gravity” are disappointingly generic electro-rock songs as well. In fact, the only telltale sign these songs are the work of No Doubt is Stefani’s bubbly vocals, which thankfully have remained the same.
Though the vocals sound the same, even the lyrics on this album are weaker than they have been in the past. Older No Doubt hits like “Don’t Speak” feature lyrics that touched fans, hitting nerves that any person who has ever lost a love can relate to.
New tracks like “Looking Hot” have about as much lyrical depth as Paris Hilton’s diary. The chorus is a barrage of shallow questions:
“Do you think I’m looking hot? / Do you think this hits the spot? / How is this looking on me, looking on me?”
Considering the fact that Gwen Stefani used to sport a bindi and rhinestones on her face back when Tragic Kingdom put the band on the map, lyrics like these make No Doubt seem more unfamiliar than ever.
In the midst of these unimpressive tracks, however, there are some songs worth listening to.
The title track, “Push and Shove,” is an undeniably fun tune that features dancehall reggae artist Busy Signal and DJ/producer Diplo as Major Lazer. The song almost ventures into dubstep grounds at points, but it has a quirky enough sound to keep the album from being a complete disappointment. “Undone” is a softer song, and Gwen’s vocals – accompanied by an acoustic performance by guitarist Tom Dumont – make it enjoyable to listen to.
An 11-year hiatus must be hard for any group of musicians to bounce back from. After so much time away from each other, rekindling the chemistry that fueled such a successful band will probably require a lot of practice and a lot more time together than the members have spent apart.
While fans can be happy that their beloved No Doubt hasn’t totally fallen off the map, Push and Shove is proof the band still has some work to do and definite spider webs to shake off.