No Doubt: Push and Shove

Posted November 12, 2012 by in



3/ 5


Genre: Alt-rock, ska punk, New Wave
Producer: Anthony Gorry, Major Lazer, No Doubt, Ariel Rechtshaid, Mark "Spike" Stent
Label: Interscope
Format: CD, digital download
Time: 51:50
Release Date: 21 September 2012
Spin This: Settle Down, Dreaming the Same Dream, Sparkle


Calculated blend of reggae origins, '80's New Wave pop and Top 40 power-pop


Missing that influential kick-ass ska punk of their roots

After a decade long hiatus, No Doubt decides to update their ska pop with 2012 synthpop explorations

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

After a decade long hiatus, No Doubt decides to update their ska pop with 2012 synthpop explorations

The return of No Doubt has been pressing matter in pop-litics for quite some time. When the band kicked out their 2001’s Rock Steady, they had maintained their chart-topping prowess without sacrificing much of their eccentricness as an indie fusion group. Eventually Gwen Stefani’s stardom started to overshadow much of the band’s thunder, typical for a Madonna-poised leading lady.  This all motivated her to concoct two solo albums. Even with Stefani’s solo voyages getting all the attention, her tight-knit relationship with her fellow bandmates still runs deep. A forthcoming album was to be expected, but no one seriously knew it would take over a decade to make that a reality. A lot has changed since their heyday rush for ‘90’s ska-pop and their closing shift towards dancehall hip-pop. So how does a No Doubt sound in 2012 without treading back to the rock band coolness of “Don’t Speak” and “Spiderwebs,” or the reggae wonderment of “Underneath It All?”

On Push and Shove, they pull off a slight upgrade of synthpop while clinging to some of their familiar trends. At the core of the album’s opener “Settle Down,” ska guitars and rhythms carry the pulse, sounds reminiscent of “Hey Baby,” while the final mix provides lots of electronic add-ons, from deejay scratching to New Wave synth patches. Stefani bubbles with confidence throughout her performance, especially when she chants “Imma ruff and tuff/Nothing’s gonna knock this girl down.” It’s a neat, sweet way to embellish their roots, even as they stretch the tune past the six-minute mark using a Mediterranean prelude and closing chants,  but No Doubt turns up the Madonna electro disco pop (“Looking Hot,” “Undercover,” “Heaven”). Thankfully, No Doubt hasn’t caved into the totality of electronica’s temptations. “Sparkle” showcases Police-esque dramatics and marching band horns, while Adrian Young’s live drums keeps Push and Shove away from being lumped into Katy Perry cotton candy. “Dreaming the Same Dream” feels like a Madonna-U2 hodgepodge, while cranking out a better portrait of the band’s live skills. And there’s also the Nashville pop of “Undone” where Stefani and the band soak themselves into Celine Dion easy-listening balladry. “I’m in trouble, help me / No one needs you more than me,” she sings. And despite the old-meets-new production tricks carved by Mark “Spike” Stent, the melodies here are still rife with succulent sing-a-long fervor, especially when Stefani sings “we’re so lucky” atop an Eighties-glossed “Gravity.”

Probably what’s most obvious to the set is how the album struggles to maintain its propensity to wow the ear. At first listen, “Push and Shove” is easily aggravated with erratic tempo changes, loud synth dub and tries too hard to sell its dancehall rhythms. “Looking Hot” has some of those same drawbacks, but with a little time becomes flirtatiously futuristic for the dance floor, particularly on the Jonas Quant mix. With a couple of extra listens, the songs become more tolerable and appreciated, even when compared with their back catalog. There’s nothing strong and mighty enough that compares with the bad-ass execution of “Spiderwebs,” but the performances are still a step up from being second-rate.

Unfortunately, Push and Shove feels like it is miles away from the influential ska punk machine they once embodied. On this round, it plays to the advantage of Stefani rather than maximizing the band’s well-known strengths. Modern pop is also seeping into the cracks of their persona. That could very well be a product of evolution and consequence.  But with a ten year break from recording, No Doubt settles for a satisfying blend of old and new – mixing Eighties L.A. vibes with reggae and synthpop. It may be considered predictable, but it’s probably their best move.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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