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

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52 Weeks, 52 Years, 52 Pops: A Girl Called Dusty (#2)

Artist:  Dusty Springfield
Year:  1964
Example Song:  Wishin’ and Hopin’

For the second in my new Tuesday series of 52 reviews from 52 consecutive years in 52 weeks, (from now on referred to as “52 Pops”), I was obliged to find an album to review from 1964.  I started the search relatively early, as I still don’t feel all that comfortable with album reviews and I wanted to get a few listens in before today;  I’d definitely listened to this album before, but that must be a couple of years ago now.  I had a few possibilities to pick from in my iTunes, but I chose this over the easy options like the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night and the Kinks’ eponymous debut, since the point of this blog is after all to expand my horizons.

Dusty Springfield, who I didn’t know was from London, had been in a girl group called The Lana Sisters from 1958 to 1960 before performing as The Springfields with her brother from 1960-1963.  After three relatively successful albums, Dusty (real name Mary O’Brien) decided to use the opportunity to launch her solo career beginning with A Girl Called Dusty, allowing her to be much more diverse musically than she had felt able to be before.

A_Girl_Called_Dusty_(Dusty_Springfield_album_-_cover_art)The album opens with “Mama Said”, a cover of a song originally performed by the Shirelles in 1961.  It’s a decent soul-pop tune, signifying immediately Dusty’s new horizons as a singer.  It’s followed by “You Don’t Own Me”, a cover of Lesley Gore from a year previously, which is a good song more immediately recognisable to me as an Eminem sample (Recovery’s “Untitled”).  “Do Re Mi” is little more than generic pop, followed by “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes”, first released by the Supremes. “My Colouring Book” is a much sadder song (first recorded by Barbra Streisand) and “Mockingbird”, written as something of a novelty duet, works nicely as a solo.  “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa”, a Bacharach/David effort, is melancholy and poignant, and after “Nothing” comes “Anyone Who Had a Heart”, written by the same duo for Dionne Warwick.  “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” is one of Dusty’s best-known early songs, and is definitely catchy (and also a Shirelles original).  “Wishin’ and Hopin’” is the highlight of the album, written by Bacharach and David for Springfield herself, an upbeat call to women to take some action to get a man.  The album is closed by “Don’t You Know”, a Ray Charles-written song that is in truth a bit of an anticlimax following the previous two hits.

Overall the album sends a strong message of female empowerment, urging women to take control of their own lives.  They can get any man they want and won’t be possessed by anyone.  However, there are certainly some more tender songs, dealing with heartbreak and pain, particularly “My Colouring Book”.  I enjoyed the album a lot, and there are undeniably some catchy songs, but it loses some merit with me by being full of covers.  It seems like there were only about 50 songs in the early ‘60s, each popping up on albums by more and more artists.  “Wishin’ and Hopin’”, one of the only original tracks, is unsurprisingly the standout song on the LP, although Dusty deals with the covers more than capably.  It’s a very good debut album, and it’s not surprising that Dusty’s admirably style had the staying power to last another three decades at least.

My Rating:  7.5/10