Review Summary: Perhaps not the comeback we were expecting, but entertaining if you can forgive its rather scatterbrained nature.
No Doubt sure raised quite a few eyebrows in 2001 when they released Rock Steady
- an album that drove them away from their ska/pop-punk direction that made them famous and released more of a reggae/dance-rock effort. Opinions were certainly divided on said album, because it was certainly no Tragic Kingdom
or even Return of Saturn
. But for the faults caused by the genre shift, there were more than a few highlights, and when the album was a hit, it certainly hit; it was hard not to dance to "Hella Good" and impossible to have "Running" leave your head. More than a decade, two mixed-received Gwen Stefani solo albums, and a reunion tour later, they raised eyebrows again with Push and Shove
's lead single "Settle Down", as it further continued the more pop direction.
By now, you pretty much know where I'm going. If you didn't like Rock Steady
, well, you may as well skip this record. No Doubt sort of continue the direction taken on Rock Steady
, but there's more experimentation involved. And one thing we all have to keep in kind is that it isn't the 1990s anymore. So obviously, we aren't going to get "Just A Girl" or "Trapped in a Box" clones. But this album, for all its messiness, does have more than a few good ideas, and it manages to succeed at most of them. There are a couple songs on here that sound like something you'd expect from No Doubt, but they throw us a few curveballs in terms of sound. And it's clear that the band are trying to move forward rather the backpedal and release angsty pop-punk/ska anthems- even in the lyrics.
And it's funny that I say that, because ironically enough, the best moments on this album are the ones that don't sound like No Doubt- both lyrically and musically. The second track, "Lookig' Hot", is an ultra-energetic dance tune that will for sure be a club anthem and will call people out into the dance floor with little effort required. The intro especially is a worth a mention, as it builds up to the chorus with enough suspense and gusto that it helps make the chorus more impactful. There's even a reggae-ish breakdown that is pretty fun too, if you can ignore the rather cringe-making lyrics ("Go ahead and stare at my ragamuffin
"). And then there's the album's title track, which combines reggae and dubstep- something that you wouldn't expect to be pulled off well, but it works, strangely enough. Busy Signal and Major Lazer make guest appearances in the song, and even they help spruce the track up a bit. The dubstep chorus in particular is well done, as it provides a decent contrast level between it and the chorus"
Aside from those two songs, much of the songs are either standard rock fare, with some Rock Steady
-ish reggae, and none of the songs are particularly bad, it's just that too many of them go in one ear and out the other and are rather formulaic. Even then, they're somewhat enjoyable. I'll admit that I don't mind "Easy", despite the annoying repeated "Ee-ma-donna" in the background that doesn't add anything. "Sparkle" is a downright ripoff of "Underneath it All" (even all the way down to the chorus), but it is somewhat entertaining. And if not for the cringe-worthy bridge that comes out of nowhere, "Heaven" is a decent generic rock song. There's really no point mentioning a lot of the other songs, because they're somewhat all in the same vein as the few tracks I mentioned, and even if they won't leave a lasting impression on you, we'll, they certainly could be worse. For god's sakes, the Harajuku girls could have returned.
So while Push and Shove
isn't the big comeback it could have been, I'll take it. It's better than Rock Steady
. It's even better than the two Gwen solo albums. It shows some maturity and growth, and even experimentation. And as scatterbrained as the album can be at times, where it'll be moving in an alternative rock direction before ZOMG REGGAE BREAKDOWN, it deserves a lot more credit than it gets. Let's just hope that should No Doubt choose to make a seventh album, that they release something that makes much more of an impact, and something that won't take another eleven years to make.
Push and Shove