Artist: No Doubt
Example Song: Settle Down
I was a little too young to appreciate No Doubt when they were first active, but several years ago I became familiar with them (although I had been well aware of Gwen Stefani for a while by then). Since then, they’ve grown steadily into one of my favourite bands, and so when in 2012, after a recording hiatus of over ten years, they released their long-awaited sixth studio effort I was very keen to hear their new material. The album had been in the pipeline for a few years before release, after Stefani’s solo albums in 2004 and 2006. The title, Push and Shove, was announced early in 2012 and the first single of the same name in July before the full record the next month.
“Settle Down”, the single preceding the album, is in fact the first song on the record. It’s a powerful song, making it clear that No Doubt are back with a bang. It’s a very strong start to the album, which I always worry about, but the following song (and second single) “Looking Hot” is almost as good. Both songs are very upbeat and rocky pop and remind me more of Gwen’s solo work than early No Doubt, but then “One More Summer” is much slower and “Push and Shove”, featuring Busy Signal and Major Lazer, incorporates heavy reggae influences that are characteristic of the group. “Easy” is laid-back but good, and “Gravity” is a more moving song that sounds full of emotion. “Undercover” and “Undone” are two decent songs although unspectacular, and then “Sparkle” is a poignant, rueful ode to a breakup (not unlike Stefani’s “Cool” from Love.Angel.Music.Baby.). It’s followed by “Heaven”, a much more optimistic track, and the album finishes off with “Dreaming the Same Dream”, which is a good enough song to end the record. There’s quite a lot of bonus material on the deluxe edition, but I want to give a special mention to the rendition of Adam and the Ants’ “Stand and Deliver” (recorded in 2009), which suits the band perfectly.
Push and Shove is a great album, although it took me a while to get accustomed to it (but everything does), and it unfortunately drops off a little towards the end. The sound is also quite different from what No Doubt originally released; it almost leans closer to Gwen Stefani’s solo work stylistically. This might well be deliberate on the band’s part because they’re all significantly older than they were and this seems much more polished and contemplative than their earlier, more youthful and exuberant work. This shouldn’t be taken as a negative, because I don’t think it would be good to see a bunch of musicians in their forties act like young rebels; it’s good to see that No Doubt are above that. They didn’t reunite to recreate the old days – they did it because they’re a bunch of great friends who enjoy making music together, and Push and Shove proves that they’ve still got the magic.
My Rating: 8/10