This year, No Doubt have finally made good on their promise and have just unleashed their first album of new material in eleven years. The 90s icons reunited for a tour in 2009 in a bid to kick start the creative process and rekindle the magic of the foursome’s hey-day. Three years later and it seems as though the first eleven tracks they managed to actually record have been lumped together on Push and Shove. In patches, Push and Shove shows just how wonderfully funky No Doubt were – and can still be – but as a whole it’s feeling limp and should be a subtle reminder that all bands may indeed have a shelf life.
Push and Shove is a shamelessly top-heavy record, with a quick succession of up-tempo potential singles, while the latter half is left to drag on listlessly. Things get off to a great start with lead single and opener, ‘Settle Down’, a bonkers, six minute long celebration of all things No Doubt. From its dramatic orchestral opening, to its ska-leanings, the track is peppered with hooks and chants.
The title track, ‘Push And Shove’, actually manages to best ‘Settle Down’ as a five-minute Greatest Hits of all the best bits of No Doubt; from their early beginnings in Orange County to Gwen as a world-straddling pop star. Elements of ska, dancehall, pop and rock are blended together courtesy of is-he-actually-still-cool producer, Diplo. There’s even a dubstep breakdown in the chorus, just for good measure. The track is a big radio risk, but a brilliant one nonetheless. Shamefully, it appears to have been dropped from its place as the rightful second single.
Luckily, the band have the high-energy pop-sheen of ‘One More Summer’ to fall back on. The track could have easily been placed on a Gwen solo record, as she does her best impression of Lady-Gaga-impersonating-Gwen-Stefani, singing, ‘Go ahead and stare / And take a picture please if you need / I think that says it all’. Just when you think the track is feeling a bit too like The Sweet Escape, the insane, reggae-tinged middle 8 chimes in, unmistakably No Doubt. They’re the only band in the world who could get away with offering their listener’s to ‘go ahead and stare at my ragamuffin’ with full seriousness.
However, when we delve a little further in to the album, things quickly fall apart. Push and Shove fast becomes an inoffensive, mid-tempo affair, stacked with not entirely unpleasant, though ultimately forgettable ballads. The band show their collective age with the sudden shift to adult-contemporary soft-rock on the likes of ‘Undone’ and ‘Dreaming The Same Dream’. ‘Easy’ is a dreary, plodding mid-tempo song, with a few eyebrow-raising lyrics about being a ‘hustler, baby’ and ‘robbin’ my hood’.
Push and Shove burns bright, and fades out all too fast. After ten years, varying levels of solo success, marriages and children, No Doubt seem to have very little to say. The foursome are as fun as they ever were when they’re reliving their heyday on the album’s first half, but the party soon catches up on these forty-somethings. For a band that has only managed to release five albums in over two decades, this is their fourth best and it’s hard to see where they could go from here.
Go Get It: ’Push and Shove’
Forget It: ’Undone’