No Doubt, Push and Shove | Album Review
No Doubt returns after an 11-year hiatus between studio albums. ‘Push and Shove’ serves as the band’s follow-up to Rock Steady, which bowed in 2001.
No Doubt releases their first studio album in 11 years with Push and Shove. Prior to Push and Shove, the collective hadn’t released a proper studio effort since Rock Steady (2001). Lots changes over the course of 11 years – biologically, emotionally, and musically. How does a veteran band make a comeback after such a long hiatus and remain relevant? No Doubt manages to maintain their ska stylings, add some modern pop swirls and adapt some retro stylings The results are solid, though not always necessarily exceptional.
“Settle Down” is arguably the best cut of the effort. Exotic and embracing ska to the fullest, this cut sounds like signature No Doubt easily getting stuck in your head. I found myself singing the feel-good single (“Get, get, get in line and settle down…”). Vocally, Stefani sounds her most captivating here.
“Looking Hot” has an overt driving pop groove. At first glance, it sounds a bit more like ‘generic’ pop, but it grows on you. Gwen questions oncoming middle age, judging by the lyrics of the cut:
“Do You think I’m looking hot? Do you think this hits the spot / How is this looking on me, looking on me?”
She continues on:
“Go ahead and stare / And take a picture please, if you need, yeah/I think that says it all.”
Her vocals get a bit covered on the verses, though she shines on the chorus. The pop-nature is replaced by ska, reggae fodder on the bridge, eventually returning to pop once more. Two cuts in, No Doubt don’t do too badly for themselves.
“One More Summer” has more of a ‘rock’ quality, opening initially with electric guitar. Eventually electric guitar is superseded by synths along with a 4/4 thudding beat. “One More Summer” is a bit safe, conservative in light of “Settle Down” or “Looking Hot.”
“Push & Shove”
Title track “Push & Shove” is characterized by a pounding beat, wacky production, and agile vocals and can be described as manic, unique, and cutting-edge. The list songwriters are the longest of the entire album and includes Diplo. The cut features Busy Signal and Major Lazer, who also co-produces with Mark “Spike” Stent. The fused elements of dubstep, ska, and pop are noteworthy, as is Stefani’s chorus:
“You work it hard (you work it) / Boy you got me good/ Ow you push and shove (push and shove)/ooh boy you’re hustlin’ me.”
What a song.
“Easy” is solid, though less enthralling than “Settle Down” or “Push & Shove.” It is more standard ‘fare’ than cutting edge like either of the aforementioned. A highlight here includes Stefani’s vocal grit achieved by the end. “Gravity” feels safe, though features a catchy chorus:
“A million miles and it fades/ We’re into orbit now we’re safe/ So don’t let me go/ Don’t ever let me float away/ We’re so lucky / Still holding on/ Just like Venus and the morning sun/ You and me got gravity.”
“Undercover” possesses an 80’s sensibility and makes sound use of a big bass line, synths, and electric guitar. While the musical cues allure and the brevity is appreciated (3:31), the band feels a bit ‘uninspired’ here. “Undone” is well produced by all means and well-paced. Timbre (and some style) changes continue to highlight this effort eliminating some predictability.
“Sparkle” possesses an excellent tropical-soul feel, though the song itself doesn’t live up to the timbre it sports. It’s solid, not exceptional. “Heaven” is highlighted by its bridge section:
“Don’t have to get technical/you know that I want you/ Don’t have to get technical/ You know that I want you.”
Overall, it is ‘close, but no cigar’ to being amongst the best cuts of the albums. Closer “Dreaming the Same Dream” opens with Stefani asking the question, “Who taught you how to love?” Characterized by thudding beat and later a fat bass line, the sound is great. Also like the latter half of Push and Shove, it’s merely solid, not revolutionary.
All in all, Push and Shove works, but fails to impress like the band’s past work. It is a solid album, but save for a couple of cuts, the album seems too safe. Rolling Stone stated that Gwen Stefani doesn’t have ‘the voice’ she once had. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but at times she seems less inspired than she did back when. Not bad, not the second coming either.
Gems: “Settle Down,” “Looking Hot” & “Push & Shove”