1990’s ska and So-Cal darlings No Doubt (singer Gwen Stefani, bassist Tony Kanal, guitarist Tom Dumont and drummer Adrian Young) are an acute anomaly. Since their last studio offering 2001’s R&B leaning ‘Rock Steady’ the music world as we know it has shifted radically. Long term brand loyalty is a rarity in this industry, last week’s new hit is practically nostalgic seven short days later. In the eleven years since Orange County’s finest released a full length LP (and six since Stefani’s previous solo offerings) a burning question remains…what do No Doubt circa 2012 bring to the table?
“We’re so lucky, still holding on,” Stefani soothes on the playful California FM bliss of ‘Gravity’, and frankly, No Doubt are far from holding on, they’re thriving. Capturing the energetic pulse of ‘Rock Steady’, whilst returning to the more reggae / ska stylings of the mega selling ‘Tragic Kingdom’, Stefani and co are sharply aware of their strengths and have crafted tracks that cater to the masses, yet stretch themselves subtly. The dancehall reggae mash of second single, the Diplo produced title track, is ‘Hey Baby’ for the dubstep age. Featuring reggae / rap masters Busy Signal and Major Lazer, ‘Push and Shove’ shifts tempo without fear and is a confident addition to the cannon of hits No Doubt possess.
‘Easy’ has and 80’s power ballad stamped all over its sweet hooks. Capturing Stefani’s haunting vulnerability and Kanal’s and Young’s knack for keeping the rhythm of track at the forefront. ‘Dreaming The Same Dream’ could have been ripped from any classic ‘80s romantic comedy, yet sounds perfectly fresh today, a balancing act many bands of the same era failed to fully comprehend. True FM power ballads expertly crafted by the band that brought the world ‘Don’t Speak’ and ‘Simple Kind Of Life’.
‘Settle Down’, Shove’s lead single, struts through the dancehall via Bollywood and is one of 2012’s best singles. ‘Settle’ encapsulates the perfect high energy vibe that reinforce why No Doubt are masters of their sonic domain. ‘Looking Hot’ turns up the pace and feels like true arena-pop and is an obvious radio-ready single. Stefani’s time away from her bandmates and subsequent solo success has brought some new tricks to the table, evident in ‘One More Summer’, which sets its sights at the highway of love and loss.
No Doubt, well in the second decade of their fame are in a reflective mood on ‘Push and Shove’, “I made you feel like you were lucky to have me,” Stefani laments on the simple production of Undone. “But now I’m panicking, I’m lost / You’re the one I need / Be patient please.” With a comeback like this you certainly have earned yourselves a right to a reprieve.
In the days of Katy, GaGa, Ri-Ri, Chris Brown and Maroon 5 ruling the airwaves No Doubt has confidently stepped forward and cemented their own place in the pop playground instead of simply following the leader. A confident return. Welcome back.