Sunday, December 02, 2012

The second coming of No Doubt

album review

Band:  No Doubt
Album: Push and Shove

After an extended hiatus that saw them undertake solo ventures, side projects, and collaborations, the members of No Doubt reunite to give us their sixth album, the long awaited Push and Shove, which comes over a decade after its predecessor Rock Steady (2001). The group first made it big with their 1995 opus Tragic Kingdom, but it appears as if they have since been shedding the very things that made them stand out; they have moved gradually from a more ska punk and rock oriented sound to synthpop, a direction that became most apparent with Rock Steady. Now Push and Shove continues where they left off 11 years ago, and is closer in vibe to their latter work as well as Stefani's solo material than it is to Tragic Kingdom and the sound they initially embraced with their first few releases.

'Settle Down', the band's funky lead single off the new record, serves as a promising first taster from the album, as its effervescent spirit exudes the energy that is distinctly No Doubt. The rest of the album, however, is far less remarkable. Songs like the title track 'Push and Shove' (which features dancehall reggae artist Busy Signal and Diplo's musical project Major Lazer) give a fair try to emulate the band's reggae drenched ska pop spirit, but others, like 'Gravity', 'Undercover', and 'Undone', as well as much of the album's mid-tempo fodder, are more nondescript. Not only do the songs sound too similar to each other but they seem too generic. Anyone from Katy Perry to Fergie could have used this material to similar, or perhaps even better, effect.

Yes, they're playing it safe and sticking to what they're already done before, but a lot has changed since No Doubt last tried this sound, and now most of this material comes off as generic and throwaway. Other than a few standout tracks, much of the record fails to make an impact on first listen. And while no one expects lyrical genius from dance pop ditties, there can't possibly be a decent excuse for any band to rhyme “hit and run” with “yummy yummy yum”; being playful is one thing, being inane is quite another.

Overall, there just isn't enough No Doubt in the new No Doubt album. The more they move away from their ska punk roots, the more edge they lose. While Stefani has never been a great singer, it was her distinctive style, sass, and affectations that made her one of the most iconic front women of the '90s. That distinctiveness has been diluted on Push and Shove. It lacks the energy and wackiness that made previous singles like 'Just a Girl' and 'Trapped in a Box' so memorable. The songs on this album lack both the immediacy and endurance of their previous hits. Push and Shove could've used a bit of the crispness of the albums that first put No Doubt on the map and it isn't really essential for anyone but their most ardent followers' music collections. Fans of radio friendly, generic electro-pop will enjoy it, and if harmless fun is what you're looking for, then Push and Shove will meet your requirements, but if you've previously dismissed No Doubt as nothing more than a glossy, stylish pop outfit with little substance, then this album won't make you change your mind.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 2nd December, 2012

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