Thursday, October 18, 2012

No Doubt Pushes And Shoves Back

While we have an affinity for the raw and less polished music across genres, No Doubt has made a near heroic effort to become relevant again. After all, 11 years is a long time to go between studio albums.

No Doubt proved they can do it, even after a studio hiatus that latesd longer than their active career. The foursome came together in Orange County about 17 years ago, bursting onto the music scene with a unique blend of pop/rock/ska. Tragic Kingdom is still felt today.

What happened during the studio hiatus? Plenty.

Since Rock Steady was released, most people know the members made their own marks. Singer Gwen Stefani embarked on an uber-successful solo career as a singer and fashion icon. Stefani, bassist Tony Kanal, drummer Adrian Young, and guitarist Tom Dumont became parents. They all grew up.

It wasn't until the foursome spent time together on a No Doubt reunion tour in 2009 that the idea for a new album was sparked. Even then, there was no rush.

It's part of what makes the release of Push and Shove so interesting. They may be older and wiser, but they haven't lost any spark. Even producer/engineer Mark Stent noted that the band wanted to do an album that was purposely intended to be played live, which meant less dubs and more chops in the various LA studios where it was recorded.

The changes are notable across the album.

If anything, Push and Shove has more adult themes lyrically while returning to the band’s roots musically. It’s danceable arena synth pop, one off from our favorites but well crafted nonetheless.

In fact, the catchy Settle Down is a classic No Doubt song that harkens back to the band’s Tragic Kingdom days. And while the song won’t match the punch and hooks of the band’s better known songs, it’s still satisfying.

The title song, Push and Shove, features Major Lazer and Jamaican rapper Busy Signal trading raps over a reggae beat. Easy lets Stefani show off her vocals, but the slower tempo gives the song the feeling of being stuck in low gear. Sparkle is a poppy classic that gives each member of the band a chance to shine. It’s punctuated by a reggae-flecked horn solo.

Undercover represents yet another No Doubt relationship song, but it’s the rhythm section of Young and Kanal that give the song that added lift. Looking Hot is a guitar-driven gem with some great work by Dumont that finds Stefani marveling at the fact that she still looks great in her 40s. She sings “You think I’m looking hot?” It works best live, like this rarity from the iHeart Radio Festival.

The final track, Dreaming the Same Dream, is a synth-heavy tune that features some gorgeous drum work by Young. It's arguably the strongest track on the album.

Push and Shove is also notable for its unique cover art, which was done by Los Angeles street artist Miles MacGregor, better known as El Mac. The four portraits were taken as photographs and then rendered manually into paintings. El Mac has said that it was a painstaking 6-week process, which included creating acrylic wood panel portraits and then using his own maze-like paint work on each.

Push And Shove By No Doubt Trips In With 5.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

No Doubt is back, and long-time fans will easily find this album to be good news. While the band doesn’t take any real risks here, maybe they don’t need to. It’s No Doubt.

You can pick up Push and Shove from Amazon or download it from iTunes. Given the work by El Mac however, you might want to splurge on a physical copy. You can order the album from Barnes & Noble.

The band is slated to peform at the MTV European Music Awards in Frankfurt, Germany, on Nov. 11. Then they return to Los Angeles for a six-show residency at the Gibson Amphitheatre. Tickes for three of the shows are already sold out. To check for new tour dates and other news, visit the band’s website.
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