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No Doubt Returns like they Never Left

Who releases a six minute single after more than 10 years of lying dormant? The royal ambassadors of ska pop, that’s who. No Doubt has never really been the rule-following type, so when they dropped “Settle Down,” who could really be surprised that it was almost twice as long as most radio singles these days? And furthermore, who could argue? A multi-platinum band like them reserves the right to put out as many epic tracks as they like, as long as it means they are making new music. That’s what is so great about No Doubt; their fans are many and they span so many genres it’s enough to make your head spin. Or enough to sell more than 33 million albums worldwide.  People just like them and their unique blend of styles.

Since their first album in 1992, things have changed for Gwen, Tony, Tom and Adrian. Once ska-loving Anaheim teens with a pink haired front woman, they are now ska-loving parents with a Covergirl platinum blonde front woman. Some things never change, and their newest album “Push and Shove” is the perfect result of their growth since “Rock Steady” and their commitment to their roots as a new wave ska act.

“Push and Shove” is spot on. Comeback albums can be tricky, but the balance on this record is impressive. There are elements of what early fans loved about the purist ska sound  from songs like “Trapped in a Box” on 1992’s “No Doubt” and in songs like “Sparkle” and “Settle Down,” which features ska and dance hall beats. Stefani’s voice has obviously matured since 1992, so you won’t find any of her intense falsetto from back then on this album, but there are moments of that fuchsia haired teen in “Settle Down,” enough to please a true fan at least.

The whole album reminded me a lot of “Tragic Kingdom” in structure and content, which is one of the best things they could have hoped for. Lyrically, it has the same introspective but upbeat trend that “Tragic Kingdom” had. However, just judging by sound, it is definitely more “Rock Steady” than anything else.  “Undercover” actually gave me the same vibe as “Tragic Kingdom” mega hit “Running” did.

Still, even with similarities, this is a whole new album for the band, and as a die-hard fan I had to remind myself of that fact constantly. The songs are much more produced and electronic this time around. Some of the more youthful songs like “Looking Hot” seem a little forced, but that has been cursed with the stupid clubby lyrics that plagued many of Stefani’s solo projects. Luckily she is back with the boys, and the music saves the track marginally.

The overall verdict? Totally worth a few million listens. It is enough classic No Doubt to keep a longtime fan like myself happy, and new enough to be fresh and fun a decade later.

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