No Doubt’s ‘Push And Shove’: Album Review

Stephen Sears | September 25, 2012 - 5:45 am
Gwen Stefani is the Great American Girl, isn’t she? Even when she married an Englishman, she kept her SoCal style and accent; the only roots she’s ever denied are in her hair. Like her No Doubt bandmates, Gwen is who she is, no poses. Amazingly, Push And Shove (out today, ) is the band’s first album since the mega-hit Rock Steady in 2001, and Gwen’s first recorded music since her second solo album in 2006. “Everything’s changed, I’ve changed a lot,” she sings on “Heaven.” No Doubt now have a classroom full of children and side projects that extended Push And Shove’s production by a few years. The slowly cooked results are spectacular: No Doubt’s best album to date.

The group has an incredible knack for sounding pleasingly familiar, while including on-the-tip touches like a raver keyboard on “Gravity” or the use of Diplo’s Major Lazer on the title track. If great production is signaled by a song’s cool nooks and crannies, Push And Shove is loaded with plenty of such brilliant moments:

  • The way the bouncing horns disintegrate just before the title track’s first chorus.
  • Gwen’s raw, yearning “I’m gonna be there” vocal in the final minute of “Easy” — easily her gutsiest vocal in years.
  • The surging final minute of album closer “Dreaming The Same Dream,” a serious cell-phones-aloft arena moment.

Push And Shove leans more toward ’80s influenced LA pop than it does ska. Several of the tracks have reggae/dancehall influences laced in, but they don’t overwhelm. First single “Settle Down” is perhaps the most classically “No Doubt” song on the album. While it divided fans, it’s actually a ballsy return to the pop scene: A six minute single – who does that?! – with an imperial string prelude and a dubby breakdown so chill that you briefly think the song has ended.

Lyrically, the album is stacked with funny, baked phrases like “I’m on a hit and run, a yummy yummy yum” on “Easy” or the title track’s rap: “We be on another level like we’re doing yoga!” But Gwen’s gained wisdom with age, delivering wry doses of reality like “You’re… making me weak and that’s a comment, not a compliment” from “Dreaming The Same Dream.”

“Undone” may be the saddest ballad No Doubt has ever recorded. Gwen delivers one of her purest, most plaintive vocals, with a lyric that’s tempting to read into: “I’m in trouble, help me / No one needs you more than me.” She recently told Marie Claire that she and husband Gavin Rossdale are “better…than ever.”

What a rare thrill to hear a band produce an album so strong 26 years into their career. Gwen, Tony, Tom and Adrian deliver eleven near-perfect songs adding up to what may be the most listenable, kick-ass pop record of 2012.

The Best Song That’s Not The Single (YET): The romantic mid-tempo offering “One More Summer” is a sister to Gwen’s own solo single “Cool.”

Best Listened To While…: Touching up your platinum blond roots (boys too!) or engaging in illicit activity involving rolling papers.

Quotable Quotes: The Gwenspeak is typically rad. Next time someone asks how you’re doing, just quote “Settle Down” and sass back, “I’m hella positive for real!”

Idolator Rating: 5/5

Stephen Sears