The Ska waves may be over, but the mainstream face of them is still going strong. After an 11-year hiatus, babies, a reunion tour and solo careers, No Doubt have returned with their new album, Push and Shove, released on 24th September.
‘Settle Down’, the first single that was released over the summer, starts off the album on a brazen note with a celebratory, street party feel created by the reggae beat and spiralling Bass. Positivity radiates from the track when Gwen Stefani sings in the rousing chorus, “You can see it in my eyes/ you can read on my lips/ I’m trying get a hold of this/ and I really mean it this time”. It reflects the optimistic mentality of a band newly reunited and enjoying their time playing together once more. This theme runs through the album; in ‘Looking Hot’ Stefani commands the fans over a quick dance tempo to “Go ahead and stare/ And take a picture please, if you need/ Yeah I think that says it all” with such palpable blazing confidence that after all this time No Doubt is still one of the hottest bands out there.
There is no radical change in sound in Push and Shove from Rock Steady, Return of Saturn or diamond-certified Tragic Kingdom, but why change from a formula that has served them so well? No Doubt show a continuing mastery in combining popular genres with more obscure ones to bring them into a public consciousness. The Ska and New Wave influences are largely present in the use of jaunty syncopation, Brass and fast spoken rap in songs such as the title track and collaboration with Major Lazer and Busy Signal, ‘Push and Shove’. These are subtly weaved into a modern context as the ‘Push and Shove’ rears into its heavier chorus with a rhythm reminiscent of modern Dubstep.
As you delve deeper into the album, with the exception of reggae groove ‘Sparkle’, these influences appear to peter out with less interesting results. The band’s attempt to incorporate 80’s Synth elements in ‘Undercover’ and ‘Heaven’, fails to create same catchy hooks that the first tracks have and their revisit to the pop-rock sound in ‘Undone’ that so proved so popular in ‘Don’t Speak’ produces a ballad that is much weaker melodically. Push and Shove, though, reaches another high at the very end with the powerful, surging outro of ‘Dreaming the Same Dream’.
It is a rare occasion for a band to produce an album so late in their career that, apart from a couple of fillers, has so many strong single contenders and manages to maintain modern relevance. Additionally, if you buy the deluxe edition you are treated to acoustic versions of some of the tracks from their Santa Monica sessions that expose how much raw talent the band as a live act still has left to offer. There can only be exciting things to expect from No Doubt in the future.