Album Review: No Doubt – ‘Push & Shove’

Posted: 02/10/2012 in Uncategorized

As published on Entertainment.ie on October 1st 2012

It’s hard to believe it’s has been 11 years since No Doubt released Rock Steady. The extensive touring in support of the album and the associated lifestyle eventually took its toll and the band decided to take a well earned break in 2004 to focus on family life, solo music projects, and alternative career paths. Or, in the case of front-woman Gwen Stefani, multitasking and doing all of the above and more. Various offspring, fashion lines, and better-best-forgotten solo albums later No Doubt are back with their sixth studio album Push & Shove (yes, sixth – they had two before Tragic Kingdom broke out of Anaheim and conquered the world in 1995, dontcha know). All notions of being out-of-touch were dispelled early on in the process – they’ve astutely let their global fanbase in on the record’s gestation period, embracing the social media revolution which was non-existent from their formative years right through to their incredible diamond sales status era. Continuous Instagram snaps from the recording studio and YouTube video diaries are all well and good, but it’s the big advance track that matters – lead single ‘Settle Down’ was debuted in mid-July, it was underwhelming to say the least, and hardly instilled great faith for what lay in wait with Push & Shove

On first listen, it’s disappointing, and non-fans may well dismiss it as just that and move on. But repeat listens reveal that yes, there are some good quality new songs on offer here – and behind it all there are four friends still bound by a mutual love of ska and all things So-Cal, making music that is true to their roots and having a blast in doing so. In terms of back-catalogue comparisons, Push & Shove is largely rooted in the Rock Steady era, but there are definite elements of the past at play alongside current trends approached with caution. This ethos is embraced full-on with the album’s title track – in the new corner there’s Diplo at the production helm, guest vocals from Busy Signal and Major Lazer, and a massive dubstep-infused chorus; in the old corner there’s Gwen Stefani in full flow walking that fine line between singing and rapping, the bass-lines of Tony Kanal driving the melody, and the irresistible presence of long-time collaborators Stephen Bradley and Gabriel McNair brandishing the brass. It’s the song which will come to define the album, but there are other treats to be found within – pacey pop-rock anthem ‘Looking Hot’ will have no mercy with club dance-floors firmly set in its sights, the synth-pop sounds of ‘One More Summer’ make it an 80s throwback delight but with a modern twist, the mid-song breakdown of ‘Heaven’ provides an instantaneous mood-lift, and ‘Gravity’ picks up right where ‘Underneath It All’ left off in terms of the spot-on pop song for the lovers, without the cheese.

However alongside the good there’s filler at play – Stefani’s solo adventures have undeniably crept into the mix, most notably on the sure-to-be-skipped-over ‘Easy’. Also, No Doubt as a unit just don’t pack the same lyrical punch that they used to – the volatile in-band relationship strains, public break-ups, and misgivings of significant others which inspired some of their finest work to date are long gone, and happily-married-with-curiously-monikered-kids quite simply does not as interesting a subject matter make, as ‘Undone’ and ‘Dreaming The Same Dream’ prove. But who are we to begrudge a group of forty-somethings their collective happiness? It may not be the dazzling comeback we dared to dream of – but there’s enough there to prove that No Doubt still matter, and it’s hella good to have them back.

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