No Doubt, the iconic ska-rock-pop band from Anaheim, Calif. that has been on the music scene since the mid-’80s, released their highly anticipated sixth album “Push and Shove” on Sept. 25. It’s been 11 years since the release of their last album, 2001’s “Rock Steady,” and I really thought they couldn’t get any better than that, especially after all of this time. However, No Doubt definitely delivered, without a doubt.
Band members Gwen Stefani, Tony Kanal, Adrian Young and Tom Dumont are pushing and shoving their way back onto the scene, as their new tracks contain catchy and fresh elements while also reminding us why we loved them in the first place. This is not to say that No Doubt simply repeated what they have already done, but rather the band provides cleverly veiled hints of their previous success throughout the album, showing how their sound is timeless.
“Push and Shove” discusses relationship dynamics and confidence but it also refers to the band members themselves and their position in the music world. The album reminds me of why I saved up my allowance when I was a kid to buy 1995’s “Tragic Kingdom,” 2000’s “Return of Saturn” and “Rock Steady,” some of the first albums that I ever owned. They don’t have to try very hard to satisfy their fans as well as reach the new generation of music listeners. No Doubt’s sound, including their slightly humorous lyrics — most poignant in their first album, 1992’s “No Doubt” — will always be original, and this still proves true on this release. Thank you, No Doubt, for this — we missed you, and we needed you back.
The first single “Settle Down” hooked me instantly, so much so that I had to make my way over to their “Good Morning America” summer concert to see them perform it live. It’s amazing from beginning to end, starting off with a mystical intro that pulls you in, and then it becomes a heavy-drummed, reggae dance anthem with the leading lyrics, “Get in line, and settle down.”
This track is inspirational, spreading the message that everyone should be confident and give themselves more credit in life — “I’m fine (and nothing’s gonna knock this girl down) / I’m hella positive for real / I’m all good / No, I’m fine (and nothing’s gonna knock this girl down) / It’s kind of complicated that’s for sure.” I can’t help but sing along with Stefani as she chants, “I’m a rough and tough / I’m a rough and tough / and nothing’s gonna knock this girl down.” “Settle Down” ends with a soulful bassline and deconstructs the rhythm. It’s easily one of their best singles yet.
“Looking Hot” is another great track that also features a reggae-inspired sound, but it has a faster tempo. It has a great breakdown in the middle before it raises the energy back up to where it started. Stefani asks, “Do you think I’m looking hot?” And the answer is “yes.” Despite the obvious implications, Stefani might be referring to her uncertainty about whether or not she’s still relevant amongst the younger pop stars (and, of course, she is).
“One More Summer” is an ’80s-inspired track about yearning to spend time with a lover, and it showcases more of the band’s alternative sound. The upbeat “Heaven” is also very ’80s-influenced with its clapping sounds, its use of the synth and its Madonna-esque repetitive line in the chorus — “You’re my heaven.”
The title track “Push and Shove,” produced by DJ Diplo, features reggae artist Busy Signal and Diplo’s musical project Major Lazer. The track is a playful combination of reggae and dubstep. It reminds me of the incredible collaborations from “Rock Steady,” including “Hey Baby” and “Underneath It All.”
“Undone” is a slow track stripped of tricks and energetic rhythms, leaving the beautiful guitar to accompany Stefani’s odd yet angelic voice. It’s undone, creating a softness that this album needed, and it is reminiscent of their huge hit “Don’t Speak” from “Tragic Kingdom.” Stefani sings, “Don’t leave me behind,” which I interpreted as, “Don’t leave No Doubt behind.”
“Easy” is another reggae-ska track featuring light-hearted lyrics, sticking true to No Doubt’s evolutionary sound from the early 2000s. “Gravity” could refer to their career with, “We’re so lucky we’re still holding on,” as well as “Sparkle,” which sounds like something off of Stefani’s solo efforts.
Finally, “Dreaming the Same Dream” asks if we are still on the same page after all of these obstacles in a relationship. I would answer that with a “yes,” No Doubt — we are still with you. Keep making music like this album, and you’ll never be forgotten.