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

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

  • xSushi

    Loving the album! The songs grow on you and have more of a lasting appeal than a lot of the fluff that’s been released in the past 3 or 4 years. One More Summer is phenomenal!!!

  • Friskyy Kaunang

    The best album 2012 so far!!! Don’t argue cos that’s my opinion! :D

  • Blair

    as an avid, avid no doubt fan for the last 18 years, i waited with such high hopes for this album. Listening to this album brought me to tears and not in the good way. I feel as though this is so far removed from anything No Doubt has ever stood for. I can’t identify with the lyrics, I’m not inspired by the lack of guitar riffs, bass chords or amazing drums that we were so accustomed to on their previous efforts. Gwen’s voice even sounds different…more over processed and less raw.
    All in all, i feel as though this album after the first 4 songs is nothing but a collection of B Sides from a Gwen Stefani Solo effort.

    I never thought that No Doubt could do any wrong in my eyes, but i think i’ll keep my beloved memories in tack with Rocksteady, Return of Saturn, Tragic Kingdom, Beacon Street and their brilliant Self Titled Album.

    • Andrew

      Blair- you nailed my exact feelings in your review. I’ve been a huge fan for 17 years, and can’t relate to this album for the exact reasons you stated. My favorite part of your review is likening the last songs of the album to a Gwen solo B-Sides effort.

  • P3P

    Calm down guys. I think it’s not a bad album, and that’s for sure. I am following ND since 1992, so 20 years, since their first release of ND homonymous album. What I can say is that they sure have changed a lot, and I don’t mean it in a negative way. Doing ska and punk like they did in the 90′s (Tragic Kingdom times just to mena it) would have been a very bad idea both from commercial and a musical p.o.v. It is true that we were expecting something let’s say more in the ND chords, but they proved us that evolution is the reason why they are still in the wave after 20 years. Don’t your remember the step change from Tragic KIngdom to Return of Saturn? They seemed two different albums, myabe made by two different artists. But I definetely appreciate Gwen & Co. versatility, and that’s what they made them huge stars in the industry.