No Doubt
Rock Steady


2.5
average

Review

by Joe Costa USER (34 Reviews)
January 21st, 2007 | 29 replies | 19,171 views


Release Date: 2001 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Rock Steady is possibly one of the most dissappointing albums I've personally heard, especially when following up the masterpiece and solid follow-up in Tragic Kingdom and Return of Saturn Respectively. No Doubt's worst effort yet.

5 of 6 thought this review was well written

Albums that become truly universally classic are few and far between. Of the past fifteen years, I can only name a few that will be considered genre defining. Due to its enormous popularity, System of a Down’s self-titled will surely be part of this list alongside (if there is any justice in this world) Frances the Mute by The Mars Volta. Californication may slip in there in the fray, due to the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s explosion of popularity spawned by that album. One thing is for sure though, Tragic Kingdom by No Doubt will be well known for the third wave ska explosion of the mid nineties which allowed for bands like Rancid, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Reel Big Fish to achieve commercial success. For true music connoisseurs, it won’t be the horn filled, ska-revival, radio anthems that No Doubt will be considered classic for, but the solid song writing and originality in tracks such as “Tragic Kingdom” (arguably one of the best rock songs in recent memory) and “Don’t Speak”. It’s quite hard to believe that a band that showed as much promise as No Doubt had to go and make such a mediocre album like Rock Steady.

Rock Steady is No Doubt’s fifth proper full-length, the follow up to the merely good Return of Saturn. After the masterpiece that is Tragic Kingdom, it would seem nearly impossible to make an album that compared. Return of Saturn is a valiant effort, but still a bit of a short coming. That said, the downward trend continues with Rock Steady. As the title suggests, much of the new disc is filled to the brim with Jamaican influence, something that might be considered a welcome change by some fans, if performed well. Unfortunately, instead of incorporating a major reggae or rock steady influence, No Doubt made the detrimental decision to incorporate a majority of dance hall influences. As opposed to the use of traditional rock instruments, they opted to use drum machines, synthesizers, and samples through much of the album. That’s not to say that the album is completely devoid of organic instrumentals, but they are extremely downplayed compared to their earlier work. This change seemed to almost foreshadow Stefani’s decision to proceed with a more hip-hop and R&B influenced solo career.

As for the music, Rock Steady is not all hip-hop beats and drum machines. One of the standout tracks on Rock Steady is the synth driven, mid-tempo rocker “Don’t Let Me Down”. Driven by a solid drum beat and simple rhythm, “Don’t Let Me Down” is classic No Doubt; A solid pop-rock track that places the spotlight on Stefani’s vocals and juxtaposes them nicely with solid, although not particularly extravagant, backing music. Although this song doesn’t particularly fit well with the rest of the album, it is quite a welcome departure from the monotonous drone that plagues this album.

“Underneath it All” is one of the newer tracks that is worthy of recognition. As opposed to most of the other tracks on this album, “Underneath it All” is a successful foray into dub-reggae, with a relaxing island guitar laying the foundation for the song, as well as some light-hearted horn work. It also features an interesting cameo by modern dancehall legend Lady Saw, who compliments the song well with her verse and adds some excellent harmonies. While “Underneath it All” may not be the quintessential No Doubt single, it is quite an interesting song, and shows that No Doubt still have a shred of originality left in them.

“Platinum Blonde Life” begins with a nice catchy guitar riff which leads into another solid pop-rock song, similar to “Don’t Let Me Down”, but sans the synth in the foreground of the song. Lyrically, it is nowhere near Stefani’s best, but it does have a nice message about willful ignorance and the danger to society that it imposes. Drummer Adrian Young is at the spotlight of this song at points, providing a solid back beat through most of the verses and choruses while throwing in some interesting fills during the instrumental sections. Towards the end of the song, the synth becomes increasingly more prevalent, without being overpowering, but still providing an interesting melody that juxtaposes Stefani’s voice quite well. “Don’t Let Me Down” is easily one of the instrumental highlights of the album.

But for all of the good songs on the album, it wouldn’t be a mainstream pop-rock album in 2001 without being chalked full of useless filler songs and crowd pleasing singles. “Hella Good” is the second single from the album, and can pretty much be described by the words “monotonous garbage”. Sure, it has probably the bass highlight of the album with the solid funk groove from Tony Kanal, but it also has that horrendously overpowering and superfluous synth line through the chorus. The synth is boring, uninteresting, and just badly produced. It has an interesting guitar line through most of it, complements of Tom Dumont (arguably one of the better mainstream guitarists of recent times), but the chorus is just inexcusably bad. Shut up Gwen, and keep your dancing escapades to your solo work. No one cares about how you are going to keep dancing after people tell you not to. They are far too concentrated on the synth that sounds like a malfunctioning trash compactor destroying their ear drums.

If “Hella Good” isn’t enough to make you contemplate suicide, take a listen to “Making Out”, which unfortunately sounds like a Gwen Stefani solo b-side. Not only is this song overproduced, but it features the worst musicianship on the entire album, replete with a repetitive drum beat, painfully simplistic bass line, and some of the most irritating synths ever recorded. The acoustic guitar interlude is welcome, but isn’t nearly interesting enough to save this song from being a complete and total waste. It’s a good thing that Stefani decided to take time off to do her solo project, because those inexorably bad ideas that she’s been tossing around in her head are starting to taint a decent band.

“Waiting Room” is one of those…wait, which song is that again? Oh, right, it’s the one that sounds like a stripped down version of “Making Out”. As if that song wasn’t bad enough the first time around. The additional harmonies from Prince are actually pretty nifty, but other than that, don’t bother with this one.

As for the rest of this album, it’s really inescapably mediocre. The dancehall influences that are quite prevalent on this album are completely monotonous. Most of the tracks on Rock Steady fall into one of two categories. Either they are the same redundant dancehall-influenced songs, or they sound like Gwen Stefani solo b-sides. The first single, “Hey Baby” is redeemable, solely because it adds some much needed variety and insane catchiness. While the album does have a few standouts, the introduction included due to the amazing vocal work by Stefani, the bad and the repetitive outweigh most of the good on the album, and while it’s unfortunate to say, No Doubt has fallen into one of the worst territories for a popular mainstream rock band. No Doubt-the masterminds behind Tragic Kingdom-have produced a slab of generic and boring dancehall and hip-hop influenced rock. With their new release due out in 2008, hopefully it will be a return to form, with some of the intelligent and introspective rock songs that we came to know and love from one of the more original rock bands of the nineties-No Doubt.



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user ratings (168)
Chart.
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good

Comments:Add a Comment 
Intransit
January 21st 2007



2797 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

this is the first in a series of resubmits of old reviews. I forgot how long my reviews used to be =/

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
January 21st 2007



4925 Comments


I agree, a band that had promise with tragic kingdom when down the tubes quickly. nice review.

JumpTheF**kUp
January 21st 2007



2708 Comments


Great review, I approve of SOAD mentioned in the first paragraph. :thumb:

trustxdialect
January 21st 2007



1502 Comments


Ace review.

I haven't heard this, and now I don't think I will.

AnyColour74
January 22nd 2007



1054 Comments


No Doubt kind of sucks. Solid review

Eliminator
January 22nd 2007



2067 Comments


No they don't.

AnyColour74
January 22nd 2007



1054 Comments


The Singles has like 3 good songs and the rest is meh

Intransit
January 22nd 2007



2797 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Any No Doubt prior to this is good stuff. Listen to it with an open mind, particularly the song "Tragic Kingdom".

And thanks everyone.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
January 22nd 2007



17912 Comments


No Doubt kind of sucks.

hey fuck you dude Tragic Kingdom is awesome

AnyColour74
January 22nd 2007



1054 Comments


Any No Doubt prior to this is good stuff. Listen to it with an open mind, particularly the song "Tragic Kingdom".


I'll look into it.


hey **** you dude Tragic Kingdom is awesome

I take it back. Some of their stuff is alright, but it can grow old after awhile. Tragic Kingdom is sex
This Message Edited On 01.22.07

Neoteric
January 22nd 2007



3243 Comments


Way to change your opinion as soon as someone disagrees.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
January 22nd 2007



17912 Comments


uh oh tension

MrKite
January 22nd 2007



5020 Comments


Haha^.

I would hate this, a lot. I might get TK, though as what I heard from it didn't suck balls.

Neoteric
January 22nd 2007



3243 Comments


[quote=Review]Rock Steady is possibly one of the most dissappointing albums I've personally heard[/quote]How is it when you rate it a 2.5? Just curious.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
January 22nd 2007



16071 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Something being average can be more disappointing than something that just sucks, as it shows promise but just fails on multiple levels.

Digging: Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

Intransit
January 22nd 2007



2797 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

yeah, I mean its dissappointing in the sense that their other albums lead me to believe this band could do so much better, but apparently, they either can't or decided not to.

Eliminator
January 22nd 2007



2067 Comments


lol @ mentioning the mars volta in a no doubt review

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
January 22nd 2007



16071 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The Mars Volta should probably be mentioned in every review ever except for Santana because you just don't do that.

Eliminator
January 22nd 2007



2067 Comments


album is fergalicious

Intransit
January 22nd 2007



2797 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

If you are implying its as bad as the song, I'd have to disagree. The album is just sort of mediocre.



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