No Doubt, the iconic female-fronted 90s band from Anaheim, California, has been apart since their last album, Rock Steady, was released a decade ago. The band regrouped and embarked on a world tour in 2009 with the hopes of creating a new album, but ultimately, their creative juices weren’t flowing at that point in time. Three years later, No Doubt produced its seventh studio album and it’s ear candy.
So much has changed since Gwen Stefani, Tom Dumont, Tony Kanal, and Adrian Young first formed the band as teenagers. If seeking a spitfire record that rings the phrase “teen angst” from ear to ear, Push and Shove is not that album. Push and Shove tackles issues that the band members have experienced in their own separate lives throughout the past 10 years out of the Hollywood spotlight.
Stefani’s role as No Doubt’s voice has always been solidified by her outspoken, blonde bombshell nature. Yet on this album, Dumont (guitar) and Kanal (bass) have a huge amount of influence and make a strong impact. This is most notable in the first single and first track off the album, “Settle Down,” which uses ska-pop beats to convey a simple but significant message: “get in line, and settle down”. From the start, No Doubt incorporates string instruments, an unexpected element that gives “Settle Down” the extra boost it needed as the first comeback single.
Fading guitar chords and a haunting synthesizer take listeners on a nostalgic journey in the song, “One More Summer.” Set by Young’s firm drumming, the slower tempo emphasizes a sadder tone that is conveyed by Stefani’s drawn out annunciation of “One more summer, one more weekend/ You’re my lover, I’m your weakness/ I don’t think I can change/ I can’t stay away/ One more summer.”
Collectively, it’s almost like No Doubt wants a summer like the good old days when they were careless and foolish teens. This song in particular has a lighter feel to it, evoking the sensation of hair blowing in the wind coming from the Pacific waves.
The weirdest song is definitely, “Push and Shove”, which starts off sounding reggae, then goes electronic, and one minute in, it completely switches to slow-mo dubstep. This transition occurs three times, and speeds up a minute later as an unknown rapper spits out sentences so fast that it’s pointless to try understanding him. In this song and the next, Stefani reinforces that she’s still got it after all these years.
Longtime No Doubt fans could make the argument that “Gravity” pays homage to the Return of Saturn album with its space theme, but only No Doubt knows their own intentions. The introduction sounds like an intergalactic battle with a shooting laser effect provided by synthesizers. Throughout the spacey track, No Doubt makes several allusions to space. For example, in the chorus, Stefani says, “Just like Venus in the morning sun, you and me got gravity.” Other space similes include, “when it’s feeling like a solar eclipse,” “we’re into orbit, now we’re safe,” and “we can swim the Milky Way like star-crossed lovers do.” Even a crater-minded individual would come to the conclusion that this song is dedicated to the bands’ significant others.
In comparison to the previous albums, Push and Shove really dives into No Doubt’s personal lives. In “Undone”, Stefani’s vocals are uncovered behind Kanal’s acoustic guitar strumming and Young’s heart-beating drums. This softer side is such a contrast because Stefani isn’t firing back at anyone. Instead, she lets the listener in, exposing her insecurities and doubts. For once, sheneeds someone, not the other way around. It’s a newfound sense of vulnerability that fans never expected to hear.
When Stefani sings, “Change me back / Please change me back / I don’t know who I am anymore / I can’t take it anymore,” it makes listeners question whether or not the band has been lost inside themselves, struggling to come to terms with their identities as parents or spouses.
No Doubt’s sound has adapted to the electronic noise heard in today’s mainstream, like dubstep and synthpop, but they continue to embellish their signature sounds from the 90s. Push and Shove is a blast from the past meeting a vivacious future. For the past year, the band has been working endlessly on this album and with this as their final product, their hard work is undeniable. Each member’s separate contributions can be heard on every track, but the musical aspect is consistently balanced between Dumont, Kanal and Young.
Don’t push off buying the new No Doubt record— it’s one of their best.