Review Summary: A great compilation of some of No Doubt's greatest songs.
I remember a few years ago when Linkin Park
had just released Meteora
, which for me at the time was obviously the greatest album ever created. I thoroughly enjoyed tuning in to my favorite local radio station and hearing the latest Linkin Park
singles, all of which had endless replay value for me.
Over the course of the year, two new singles combined to end LP's reign at the top on the radio station, sabotaging my happiness in the process. One of these was Hey Ya by Outkast
. I still am angry with them for taking over my radio station, and have not yet given the band a second chance, though I may force myself to at some point.
The other song that took the station by storm was It's My Life
by No Doubt
, and I hated it. I still don't really like it very much. Suffice it to say that my hatred of the song was enough for me to swear off of No Doubt
and of female singers in general, since I attributed my dislike of the song to Gwen Stefani's voice.
However, as time passed by, I've gradually encountered more and more female singers that I have liked, so I decided I would give No Doubt
a second chance, and bought this CD. By this time, my musical tastes had changed (you might say “improved”) significantly and my hatred had faded away, and to my surprise, I really enjoyed the CD, and I still do today.
Gwen Stefani's voice is fantastic on most tracks, and the raw emotion and intensity that she manages to convey completely won me over. In her best moments, such as in Just a Girl
and Trapped in a Box
she somehow manages to express both innocence and rebellion, and the combination of these two seemingly opposite elements is irresistible.
The instruments, combining ska, rock, pop, and later on dancehall and reggae elements, all fit together well and create a distinct and pleasant sound, often surprisingly demonstrating much more technical proficiency than expected from more poppish band. A musical highlight of the CD is Trapped in a Box
, which features a guitar solo with probably the fastest guitar-playing on the album, and above-average musicianship from all members of the band. The song also puts keys, synth and trumpets to very good use in various moments in the song.
The bass, played by Tony Kanal, is usually quite noticeable and a highlight of a few songs, such as Sunday Morning
, Hella Good
, and Ex-Girlfriend
. The guitar, played by Tom Dumont, is also more proficient than many would expect from such a mainstream band, coming through strongly on tracks such as Just a Girl
, and Ex-Girlfriend
. The interplay between acoustic and electric guitars on Simple Kind of Life
helps bring out a lot of the emotion in Gwen’s singing. Drummer Adrian Young doesn’t seem to do much besides keep the time, but there are rare moments where a little skill is demonstrated, such as in Sunday Morning
. However, not much skill is really needed from the drum department, and the fact that drums are often an afterthought doesn’t really take away from any of the songs.
The synth and drum machine used later in No Doubt’s career are a major step down from the instrumentation of songs on earlier CDs. These elements are repetitive and painful on It’s My Life
and Hella Good
, and are redeemed only by Gwen’s vocals on Hey Baby
. Trumpets, saxophones, keys, and other instruments make occasional appearances as well. The trumpets are a definite highlight on Bathwater
, interplaying beautifully with Gwen’s voice, and the reggae elements incorporated into Underneath It All
are pulled off really well.
However, when all is said and done, it is Gwen’s voice that really drives the band, and it is her voice that makes or breaks (usually makes) each song. Her singing on Bathwater
and Don’t Speak
is what really makes those songs great, and her range of vocal control is an immediate attention-grabber on Trapped in a Box
. However, based on what I’ve heard from her solo work, she is definitely better when complemented by a good backup group.
Since this is a greatest hits album, I’m not going to go into much more description of the music or offer a track-by-track of any sorts. For more details, I would suggest checking out the reviews on Sputnik for the specific albums from which the different songs on this CD were drawn. I actually wasn’t planning on writing an all-out review at all, and I started out just writing that whole introductory section in the sound-off section. But I realized that since I was writing so much, I might as well try and work it into a full-blown review, and I may end up editing this somewhat. By the way, I apologize for that long intro, especially if you don’t relate at all to what I was saying. I just had to include it, because that rant was what got me started on this review.
All in all, this is a great album to pick up for anyone looking to give No Doubt
a second chance like me, or wanting to get some more songs from that band they remember hearing and liking on the radio, or simply wanting to add another great album to their music collection.
Just a Girl
Trapped in a Box