Literary Pop: Wolf Hall

“It is all very well planning what you will do in six months, what you will do in a year, but it’s no good at all if you don’t have a plan for tomorrow.”

Author: Hilary Mantel
Year: 2009
Nationality: British

I’ve been making an effort recently to get more in touch with some modern literature – partly because I feel I shouldn’t get too stuck in the past, and partly because recent novels seem on the whole to be more easily readable than their older counterparts.  Counterintuitively therefore I picked up Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel’s 650-page Booker Prize-winning epic about the rise and rise of Thomas Cromwell, advisor to King Henry VIII (I’m led to believe the fall will follow in parts 2 and 3 of the trilogy).

Wolf Hall follows Cromwell on his journey from beaten blacksmith’s son to one of the most powerful men in the realm, chronicled through a number of wolfhallhistorical events, focussing on the dissolution of Henry’s first marriage (to his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon) and the installation of his new wife, Anne Boleyn, as Queen.  The tale is wrought with the current of Henry’s battle with the Roman Catholic Church, and ends with (spoilers) the execution of Thomas More, former Lord Chancellor and perennial thorn-in-the-side. (To hear this story from the other side, watch 1966’s Best Picture winner, A Man for All Seasons, in which More is the hero and Cromwell a villain (yawn)).  Through his wit, intelligence and intricate knowledge of the law, Cromwell rises through various posts to become the king’s most trusted adviser and the man to whom everyone turns to get things done.  He overcomes his association with the disgraced Cardinal Wolsey and finds himself intimately connected with the Howards and the Boleyns (because it probably seemed like a good idea at the time).  By the end of the book he has risen to an unheralded superiority in the kingdom – but what goes up, must come down…

I won’t lie, it’s not an easy read. Particularly at the start the somewhat ambiguous nature of the dialogue and the fact that roughly 70% of the men are called Thomas makes it hard to get to grips with.  The huge, ever-changing pool of characters doesn’t help, but (fortunately?) the book is long enough to give the reader ample opportunity to get used to proceedings.
Throughout the book, I gained respect and regard for Cromwell, and when I eventually get round to reading Bring Up the Bodies and the to-be-released finale it will be disappointing to read of his downfall.  This is an curious experience for me, because I’ve never really been into historical fiction before, which has the caveat that whatever the action, the end result will be the same.  I am however gaining a little insight into the genre, and it’s interesting to think (again, thinking of A Man for All Seasons) how the author of a work can spin history to favour one character or another.  Not that I’m accusing Hilary Mantel of having any political motive, of course.  I’m sure she’s not like that at all.  It also has the additional bonus of teaching me a bit about history (taken with a large pinch of salt), and I like learning.  More for me in future, I think.

 

My Rating: 8/10

Film Pop: Gaslight

Year: 1944
Director: George Cukor
Stars: Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten
IMDb

As I mentioned recently, I don’t watch very many films at all at the moment – I’m way too busy reading.  Last night, however, my girlfriend and I sat down to watch Gaslight, specifically the 1944 American-produced version (following the 1940 film adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play).  This was a film we’d been meaning to watch for a few months now, after she’d introduced me to the term “gaslighting”, a form of psychological abuse owing its name to the play and its adaptations.  All will become clear.

The film opens with reports of the London murder of Alice Alquist, famous opera singer, before cutting forward to Italy several years later, where her niece, Paula (Bergman) is receiving musical training from a man who once coached Alice herself.  However, Paula has had her head turned by Gregory Anton (Boyer), losing passion for her studies, and soon abandons her tutelage to marry him.  He persuades her to move back to the house where her aunt was murdered (in which Paula had lived at the time).  Among her aunt’s possessions, which are swiftly moved to the loft for Paula’s peace of mind, she finds a letter dated two days before the murder from a man named “Sergius Bauer” which could help solve the yet-uncracked case; Gregory swiftly relinquishes her of this and keeps it to himself.

Soon afterwards, strange events begin to happen around Paula which she is unable to explain.  She begins to misplace glightitems, finding them in places she is sure she didn’t put them (or not finding them at all).  Meanwhile, a man in the park recognises in Gregory a man whom he thought to be dead – this man, who turns out to be Brian Cameron of Scotland Yard (Cotten) starts to use his connections to investigate the matter.  These investigations are not helped by Gregory, who makes every effort to isolate his wife from the world, thereby encouraging her feelings of confusion and persecution – feelings which are increasingly revealed as justified, as it becomes evident that Gregory is deliberately misleading his wife in an attempt to convince her that she is going mad (i.e., “gaslighting” her).  Furthermore, Cameron’s investigations reveal that Gregory Anton is none other than Sergius Bauer, author of the mysterious letter and murderer of Alice Alquist.  He married Paula in order to find some precious stones, for which he had killed her aunt but failed to locate.  In the dénoument, he finds these jewels, but not before his atrocious behaviour is revealed to his wife by the heroic Cameron, who has arrived to detain the murderer and thief…

Gaslight is definitely worth watching, at least as much for its cultural significance as for its inherent quality as a film.  It suffers a little from traditional 40s over-acting, with a few interesting accents, but overall it’s a well-produced movie.  It also has some significance as the screen début of Angela Lansbury, aged 18, as a coarse maid who is either in on Gregory’s plot or just plain nasty.  But the idea behind the plot is a powerful and quite disturbing notion of abuse, making Anton one of the more despicable characters to grace my screen.  His eventual comeuppance is long-awaited and well-deserved, and the satisfaction of that is perhaps the highlight of the film.

 

My Rating: 8/10

Literary Pop: Slaughterhouse-Five

“There was a big number over the door of the building. The number was five. Before the Americans could go inside, their only English-speaking guard told them to memorize their simple address, in case they got lost in the big city. Their address was this: ‘Schlachthof-fünf.’ Schlachthof means slaughterhouse. Fünf was good old five.”

Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Year: 1969
Nationality: American

I read many books these days.  This puts me in a difficult position regarding what to review, especially since I’m out of the habit.  Since this was a book I read last week, and has been one of my most urgent “t0-read”s for a long time, Slaughterhouse-Five seemed to me a sensible enough choice to review.  On the other hand, Kurt Vonnegut’s best-known work is hardly a sensible book.  Despite the odd reference I’ve picked up over the slaughterhouse-5years, I had virtually no idea what to expect from the (relatively short) novel, and this was compounded by my tendency not to read blurbs (why spoil the surprise?).  Retrospectively, I’m not sure much could have prepared me for this book.

Slaughterhouse-Five is something of a meta-novel – the narrator sets out the events in third-person, occasionally including his own perspective on a story in which he features as a less-than-minor character.  He does nevertheless appear to have an insight into the inner workings of Billy Pilgrim, our hero (of sorts).  Billy claims to have the ability to travel in time, and as such the narrative constantly flashes forwards and backwards around the central event, the February 1945 firebombing of Dresden.  A conventional view of time sees Billy born in 1922 in Ilium, NY.  A tall, weak youngster, Billy enrols in optometry school before being drafted in 1943, sent to Germany and captured as a POW following the Battle of the Bulge.  Along with his fellow prisoners he is transported to Dresden as contract labour, quartered in the titular Slaughterhouse, and survives the bombings that wipe out the majority of the city.

Billy returns home after the war, and is soon diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  However, he soon completes his studies in optometry, marrying the daughter of the school’s owner.  They have two children, and several years later, on his daughter’s wedding night, Billy is abducted by aliens, taken to the distant planet slaughterhouseTralfamadore and forced to live as an exhibit in a zoo.  He later returns to earth, survives a plane crash and is considered crazy by those who hear his alien experiences, particularly his daughter.  Billy’s life and the novel ‘s narrative converge for the final time at the close of the book, with an event indicating that Billy’s experiences with time might not be all in his head…

I feel like I’ve done the book an injustice by my synopsis.  The flexibility of the temporal structure of the novel and Vonnegut’s sharp wit made this an excellent read, and it certainly loses something when the events are forced into their proper order.  It’s quite short, which is probably wise in ensuring it doesn’t become unreasonably complicated.  I’d definitely recommend it to any fans of Catch-22, although to be honest I’d have to recommend it to almost anyone.  It’s not as confusing as it sounds – read it for yourself and find out!

 

My rating: 8.5/10

An update.

An update

Hello, loyal followers. You may have (but probably haven’t) noticed my distinct lack of activity over the last six-and-a-bit months. This has an explanation.

I won’t go into too much detail, but on February 4th some problems I was having with addictions came out into the open. My life was turned upside down through the revelation of a long history of harmful and hurtful behaviour. Blogging has understandaby paled into insignificance while I have tried to get my life back on track. With the support of my wonderful girlfriend, who I am ubelievably lucky to have, things are moving in the right direction and I’ve decided there might be a place in my life again for some calm reviewing.

You’ll probably notice a slightly different theme to my pops – I’m going through a period where I hardly watch any movies! In fact, I’m totally out of the loop. I am however reading voraciously, and forever listening to music. My updates also aren’t going to be nearly as frequent as before as I devote more of my attention to some important aspects of life that have previously been somewhat neglected.

I’m a much better person that I was six months ago, and my life is fuller. Maybe I’ll become a better blogger too? We can only hope.

Thanks for reading!

Dan

Pop Obituary: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman was born on July 23rd, 1967 in Fairport, New York to parents Marilyn and Gordon, although they divorced not long after in 1976. Having taken up acting in high school following an injury-curtailed pursuit of wrestling, he took to his new hobby quickly and after attending theatre schools and earning his drama degree Hoffman first graced screens in a 1991 episode of NBC’s Law and Order.  1992 was his breakthrough year cinematically, earning supporting roles in four feature films (most notably the multiple Academy Award-nominated Scent of a Woman alongside Al Pacino).  More supporting parts followed, such as in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997) and Magnolia (1999), as well as 1998’s cult favourite The Big Lebowski.  Despite his well-received performances, Hoffman was rarely given lead roles although he had top billing in both Love Liza in 2002 and Owning Mahoney the following year.

Hoffman in 2003's Owning Mahoney
Hoffman in 2003’s Owning Mahoney

After smaller roles in Cold Mountain and Along Came Polly, Philip was cast as writer Truman Capote in the 2005 biopic, Capote. For this role Hoffman received widespread acclaim and numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actor on his first try.  This role put him firmly on the scene as an A-list actor, and in 2007 he starred in Sidney Lumet’s final film, the critically-acclaimed Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.  Despite these successes in lead roles, Hoffman remained mostly as a supporting actor in his later films; he received more Oscar nominations in pshdoubtthis category for Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), Doubt (2008) and The Master (2012), although he was unsuccessful on all three occasions.  He was also an active part of both the television and theatre scenes; he was nominated for an Emmy for Empire Falls and Tony Awards for True West, Death of a Salesman and Long Day’s Journey into Night. It is cinema however for which he will be most significantly remembered, and his final roles came as Plutarch Heavensbee in the later films of the Hunger Games series.

Hoffman, in a relationship with costume designer Mimi O’Donnell from 1999, struggled with drug and alcohol addiction after leaving college but was recovered by the age of 22.  In 2013, however, he suffered a relapse and checked into a rehab clinic citing problems with heroin and prescription drugs as the problem.  On February 2nd, 2014 he was found dead in his Manhattan apartment by friend and playwright David Bar Katz in what appears to have been a drug-related catastrophe.  He leaves behind his wife and three children:  son Cooper (born 2003) and daughters Tallulah (2006) and Willa (2008).

Philip Seymour Hoffman was an actor admired by almost everyone, including me.  I particularly enjoyed his performances in The Big Lebowski and Magnolia as well as more recently Doubt and his comic turn in 2009’s The Boat That Rocked.  It is a shame that he didn’t appear in more central roles, although clearly he excelled in supporting positions to the extent that he was more often called upon in this capacity.  Nevertheless, he could evidently handle the spotlight since in one his few lead roles he won what most consider to be the highest accolade.  He was a popular actor in the industry, particularly with Paul Thomas Anderson who cast Hoffman in five of his six features so far.  He was undoubtedly an excellent actor, and 46 is far too young to lose anyone.

psh

Philip Seymour Hoffman 1967-2014

Music Pop: Hot Fuss

Artist:  The Killers
Year:  2004
Example Song:  All These Things That I’ve Done

I’ve listened to a number of albums over the last few days and been mostly unable to decide which of them to review, but in the end since I don’t have the time to really scrutinise something new I’ve settled on the one I probably know best:  Hot Fuss, the debut album from Las Vegas natives the Killers.  I quite like the band, having been relatively familiar with them for a good while, and it’s safe to say this album is one I’ve listened to a number of times over the last five or so years.  It had been a while, and so it was an LP I was glad to revisit.

Hot-FussThe first song from any band’s debut album is a significant one (as far as I’m concerned), and on Hot Fuss the Killers produce a good impression with “Jenny was a Friend of Mine”. Although not released as a single, the catchy song is one of the band’s most respected.  The album then kicks up to another gear entirely, running through some great songs (all released as singles).  “Mr. Brightside”, a depressing yet optimistic tale of a man who suspects his girlfriend of cheating, “Smile Like You Mean It”, conversely more downbeat, and “Somebody Told Me”, with lyrics that confuse me a little, are all excellent, powerful songs and undoubtedly some of the Killers’ best-known. “All These Things That I’ve Done”, an anthem to self-improvement, is just that little bit even more special, making it my favourite song from the album.  The second half of the album doesn’t hit these heights but is not at all bad nonetheless; “Andy You’re a Star” is an impressive new-wave influenced rock song and “On Top” is a decent if unspectacular track.  Then comes “Change Your Mind”, a relatively short interlude.  “Believe Me Natalie”, next, is another pretty standard effort.  It’s followed by “Midnight Show”, quite a fast, energetic song, While “Everything Will Be Alright” is a much more laid-back tune that draws the album to a relaxing finish.

I like the Killers, although to be honest I probably like this album more than I like the band.  In fact it’s almost too good of a début, as nothing they’ve done since has been able to live up to such an impressive first effort (see Sum 41 for another example of this unfortunate affliction). In addition to this, as good as the album is overall I find it very hard to get past the decision to spunk the album’s four singles and (best-known songs) in the first five tracks – to a casual listener there’s very little reason to continue listening after the end of “All These Things That I’ve Done”.  But still, I’ll forgive them for that because I don’t think the Killers are the kind of band who made an album for the casual listener, and that’s a respectable trait in itself.  Hot Fuss is a great example of the early 2000s’ indie rock revival (along with the likes of the Strokes), and all in all one of my favourite rock albums of the 2000s.

My Rating:  8/10

Film Pop: 12 Years a Slave

Year:  2013
Director:  Steve McQueen
Stars:  Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o
IMDb

Following Her, the second Best Picture nominee I managed to see on the weekend was the film everyone’s been talking about, the early favourite for the victory, 12 Years a Slave.  Both my girlfriend and I had been eagerly awaiting its UK release, even if our local cinema couldn’t make up its mind when it was going to have it in.  Based on the memoir of the same name written by Solomon Northup in 1853, 12 Years a Slave is the third feature film from British director Steve McQueen (and the third to feature Michael Fassbender).

12yasSolomon Northup is a black man living freely with his wife and children in Saratoga Springs, New York in the year 1841.  One day he is approached by two travelling entertainers who want him to join them as a violinist, only to be plied with alcohol one night and find himself in chains the next morning.  Now in the possession of white strangers, he is shipped down to New Orleans, given the new name “Platt” and sold to plantation owner William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch).  Ford is (relatively) civil towards Northup, but is forced into moving him on after Solomon’s altercation with vicious carpenter Tibeats (Paul Dano).  He comes into the possession of Edwin Epps (Fassbender), a violent drinker who puts Northup to work in the cotton fields along with the rest of his slaves, the best picker among whom is young Patsey (Nyong’o).  Vulnerable Patsy becomes the object of Epps’ infatuation and he soon rapes her, defying the attempted protection of Solomon and the efforts of Epps’ wife Mary (Sarah Paulson) to revile her at all times.  Northup, aided by travelling worker Bass (Brad Pitt), finally makes his companions in the north aware of his situation and is brought back to his family, not before being forced to brutally whip Patsey under Epps’ coercion.

12 Years a Slave is for certain a good film; it goes further than almost anything before it in depicting the cruel reality of slavery in America.  Ejiofor produces a masterful, moving performance as a man fighting the worst injustice imaginable to be reunited with his family.  However, overall I felt a little let down by the hype surrounding the movie. It didn’t really shock me like I was expecting it to, but maybe that’s less the film’s fault and more the result of the industry’s tendency to fill feature after feature with awful human behaviour and the media’s subsequent eagerness to shout about how shocking it is.  Maybe it’s just me, but I know I’m not the first to say this.

12yas2 As well as this, It has been criticised by some for the fact that the director and lead actor are black British rather than African American, because they don’t have the heritage rooted in slavery to draw from; I admit to being too inexperienced to comment on this meaningfully.  It’s also received a decidedly mixed reception for its historical accuracy, variously being praised for its brutal depiction of the treatment of slaves and condemned for its omission of important themes from the book (such as the slaves’ never-ending attempts to escape).

Ultimately there’s nevertheless no denying that 12 Years a Slave is a film that will go down in history for the right reasons, and it’s a film that you need to watch.  To me it’s a victim of great overhyping, but it’s still a very good film and one of the top contenders for the top prize at this year’s Academy Awards.

My Rating: 7.5/10

52 Pops: Flowers for Algernon (#4)

Author:  Daniel Keyes
Year:  1966
Nationality:  American

Dr Strauss says I shoud rite down what I think and remembir and evrey thing that happins to me from now on. I dont no why but he says its importint so they will see if they can use me.”

This week I’m going to have to cop out somewhat, as I’ve been so busy with two jobs that I haven’t had the time to read more than a chapter of anything a night.  I foolishly started A Tale of Two Cities a week and a half ago thinking (based on my reading trajectory so far this year) that I’d have the time to get in that and another book in before today, but I was sadly mistaken (I’m about a third of the way through).  And so that led me to my only option of reviewing a book I’ve already read.
Flowers for Algernon, a book I’ve read twice, was originally my first choice to re-read for this post anyway because I own it, I like it a lot and haven’t read it for a while, but I didn’t see any way of getting hold of my copy.  I first read it for school about ten years ago and I even enjoyed it then, which I’m sure many will agree is not always the case.  A few years later I found that I’d never returned my school copy by accident and saw fit to give it another go, to my great pleasure.  As such I haven’t read it since then but it’s pretty well stuck in my memory.

FlowersForAlgernonFlowers for Algernon is the chronicles of a young man named Charlie Gordon, seen from the perspective of his journal entries.  Charlie, beset in life by an IQ of 68, works as a janitor in a bakery and is constantly used and abused by his co-workers and others.  He is selected to undergo an experimental operation to permanently increase his mental capacity; the first successful patient, a mouse named Algernon, becomes Charlie’s beloved companion.  The operation is a success and raises his IQ to a whopping 185, but the sudden elevation to the adult world proves difficult for Charlie as he struggles to cope with his new-found independence (not unlike Tom Hanks in Big, although far less whimsical).  He encounters relationships, sex and alcohol before trying to reconnect with his family, who could not cope with him as a child.  Meanwhile, Algernon begins to exhibit behaviour that suggests the procedure might not have been as permanent as everyone had hoped, and Charlie finds himself in a race against time to make the most of his intelligence in the event that it may not be his forever.

Personally I think this book is a must-read.  The story is emotional and moving and even perhaps quite painful to read on this account as Charlie writes down his struggles in a style which evolves with his intelligence.  The novel, based on a short story written by Keyes seven years previously, is relatively short and will appeal to anyone interested in fiction from the perspective of the mentally-handicapped, such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or the more modern Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (or even Forrest Gump.  Tom Hanks galore!).  It challenges perceptions of mental health without needing to diagnose Charlie as one thing or another, but even if you’re not particularly interested in that sort of thing you should still give Flowers for Algernon a go as a very worthwhile read.

My Rating:  8/10

Film Pop: Her

Year: 2013
Director:  Spike Jonze
Stars:  Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson (voice), Amy Adams
IMDb

After the recent announcement of the main nominees for the 86th Academy Awards, I made it my goal to get up to date with as many of the films nominated for the leading categories as possible before the ceremony on March 2nd. This has admittedly gotten off to a relatively slow start due to my newly-acquired busy schedule, but this weekend I did manage to see two of the Best Picture nominated movies, beginning with Her, the fourth feature-length picture from acclaimed herposterdirector Spike Jonze.  Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay (although not Best Director), Her is a movie I knew very little about before viewing other than the general premise (and critical recognition).

Some time in the not-too-distant future, Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) is employed as a writer of (mostly love) letters for people unable to express themselves emotionally.  Theodore, having recently broken up with his wife (Rooney Mara), leads an ironically miserable life alone until he installs an artificially-intelligent operating system onto his technological devices (which were already omnipresent in his life).  Samantha, as she soon names herself (Johansson (voice)), is smart and funny, although initially very naïve. The two soon become fast friends, and after Theodore returns from a blind date gone bad, shortly enter into a romantic relationship.  This is not without its difficulties.  Despite the support of old friend Amy (Adams), Theodore and Samantha struggle against obstacles like the lack of physicality. But as Samantha grows it’s only a matter of time until Theodore is outgrown along with the rest of the human race;  Theodore is not alone in his circumstances, but he is nevertheless once again alone.

hergrab

Her is a very strange film; although marketed as a comedy-drama, what humour there is is very dark. From a futuristic take on “phone sex” right at the beginning of the movie it’s clear that Jonze isn’t going to hold back in making this film into exactly what he wants, and this is refreshing.  This also helped me connect with the characters, as the candidness of the perspective made them seem more real and relatable despite the surrealism. This was true to the extent I actually felt invested in the relationship between Theodore and Samantha to a greater extent than I do with many “real” on-screen couples; when Samantha is suddenly and unexpectedly unreachable I truly empathised with Theodore’s panic.  The casting is excellent and Phoenix is very believable as a lonely guy a little on the odd side (I’m very surprised at his lack of an Oscar nomination for the part).  There is however an odd feeling that there’s something missing that keeps the film as a niche drama and holds it back from blockbuster status; I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it might be linked to the general unease I felt from the story (this seems to be a strong theme in Jonze’s work).  Perhaps it’s because it’s a little too believable as the possible future of technology.  Nevertheless, I definitely enjoyed Her, and I would undoubtedly recommend it for a watch.

 

My Rating:  8/10

Music Pop: Push and Shove

Artist: No Doubt
Year: 2012
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.

Push_and_Shove_-_No_Doubt_album_cover“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