The last time No Doubt came out with an album, the year was 2001. Modern staples like the iPhone and Facebook weren’t even ideas yet, Barack Obama was a virtually unknown name, and Justin Bieber had probably just lost his first tooth.
Needless to say, the culture in which No Doubt finds itself today is worlds away from the music scene they dominated in the 90s, which means the band needs some its strongest work yet to win over this new generation of listeners. It’s unfortunate then that Push and Shove, while a thoroughly pleasant listen, may not be the home-run they need to put them back on top.
Fans had plenty of reason to expect a smash. The band has been hyping the album through online webisodes since last spring, and the first two singles, “Settle Down” and “Push and Shove,” are both killer tracks that see No Doubt’s creativity at its height. In particular, they hinted at a move away from Gwen Stefani’s recent solo releases, trading in her pop sounds for the blend of ska, reggae, and rock that makes the band unique. Short of a few satisfying moments, however, Push and Shove sounds more like something Stefani might have released on her own than something a rock band would create.
That’s not to say this music is necessarily bad—“Easy” glides by nicely on a breezy beat, and “Sparkle” is sweetly reminiscent of the band’s reggae influences—but the disappointment comes in the fact that these songs never feel fully realized. The ballad “Undone,” for example, shows promise at its start, but then descends into an unmemorable chorus that ultimately makes it underwhelming. Still, even the songs that are otherwise unremarkable, like “One More Summer” and “Undercover,” have moments of brilliance that come in form of catchy bridges and guitar solos.
Taken out of the context of No Doubt’s successful past, Push and Shove would probably be seen as a successful pop album. But comparisons are inevitable, and while fans are sure to love some elements of it, this release doesn’t live up to the caliber of the band’s previous work. It’s unclear whether Push and Shove is intended as a one-time reunion album or the start of a new era for the band, but if the album’s highlights are any indication, No Doubt’s still got some genius left in them.
Key Tracks: Settle Down, Push and Shove, Easy