No Doubt, ‘Push and Shove’ – Album Review
It's not a renaissance -- at least not yet -- but let's face it: We're living in a pretty OK time for corporate pap. All signs point to Brandy's next album being great, and even the surliest of dudes have enjoyed 'Call Me Maybe' -- even if they won't own up to it. Heck, 'Moves Like Jagger?' Pretty good song, all said and done.
So what better time for No Doubt to hop back into the game? It's been a long 11 years since the SoCal group's last album -- 'Rock Steady,' which was kinda great -- and with the steadily rising interest in dancehall pop, Gwen & Co. are coming back right in time.
Few, if any, pop acts did a better job of cranking out consistently catchy music that wrapped its arms around the '90s sonic zeitgeist and, well, absolutely nailed it single after single after single. Some may balk, you could say that that No Doubt did the '90s as well as Duran Duran did the '80s. So how does No Doubt fare as a group of 40-somethings in 2012?
For 'Push and Shove,' they indulged their wiser, artier angels, taking a risk by hitting the studio with a cast of producers that created the work that inspired them as upstarts. Reggae icons Adrian Sherwood, Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Scientist; '80s knob twiddlers Gary Numan and Nile Rogers; and current-day studio wizards like David Guetta and Justice all share production duties on the album.
OK, not really. But that would have been freaking incredible, right?
No Doubt did, however, enlist respected pop papa Mark "Spike" Stent to lord over the album, and they also nabbed the requisite Diplo production on the disc's lead-off single and title track, which features support from Major Lazer and a cotton-candy rap battle between Stefani and Busy Signal.
That track is about as immediately satisfying as the album gets, though. While a few songs blossom more with each listen ('One More Summer' and stonking dancehall track 'Sparkle' come to mind), 'Push and Shove' stays front-loaded and never quite propels itself the way even 2000's 'Return of Saturn' did. (On that note, remember 'New?' It was on the soundtrack for 'Go,' the most '90s movie ever. That song is fantastic. And overlooked. That's all.)
While the album goes above and beyond expectations, there are a couple of tracks -- 'Dreaming the Same Dream' and 'Easy' -- that are so flaccid and bloated with tropes that it's not unfair to label them the worst No Doubt songs ever. But, as these things go, the gold shines through the dirt, and what we're left with is a happy return to form from the long-absent rockers and a fine, if not extraordinary, comeback album.