Artist: No Doubt
Album: Push and Shove
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop rock
Label: Interscope Records
No Doubt has always been hip to trends. Tragic Kingdom and the Beacon Street Collection were very 90s, and some fans will probably mistake that as being very No Doubt. Return to Saturn was very 2000, very much about rock ballads and the radio format of the day. Rocksteady was incredibly 2001 (or dare I say, ahead of its time; it could be called 2002 and 2003 with its allotment of warped ringtone rap influences). Much like the Offspring, whose recently release Days Go By was very much a 2012 record, this album by No Doubt is very 2012. Push and Shove features elements of dubstep and production more akin to what we’d expect off the next Lady Gaga release than what one would expect for a band that once played on the Vans’ Warped Tour. But that isn’t my problem with this record.
In 2008, I worked at a record store, and Chinese Democracy, the long awaited Guns n Roses album finally came out. I remember shamefully crossing the street to Best Buy to purchase it, I listened to track 1, the title track, having waited most of fifteen years for it. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t particularly great, mind you – but it wasn’t bad. Each song on that album felt like it was building and building, waiting for that ultra-catchy, hell of a hook chorus that would just be undeniably worth the wait. But with Guns n Roses, it never came. And that’s my problem with Push and Shove: the hook that makes it all worth it never comes. That one shining moment, that inescapable earworm doesn’t happen anywhere on this album, let alone on each and every song.
No Doubt is casting out its line, and the hooks aren’t grabbing any fish here. The lead single, “Settle Down” came out back in July, and I was optimistic about the rest of the album holding better songs. It’s a decent song with some definitive pop value, but it’s nothing I would write home about. It’s not likely to make anyone who already loves No Doubt want to see them on their next tour, and it’s not likely to provide them with a barrage of new fans with its pop genius – because there is no pop genius there. And that’s too bad; the album version opens up with a pretty interesting introduction that gives the potential for the rest of the album to verge on new territory; instead, the album simmers in some of the most vanilla songwriting the group has ever done, spiced with the influences of dubstep, EDM, and pop’s current obsession with synth basses and drum machines.
The best song on the album is the second single and title track, “Push and Shove”. Bassist Tony Kanal said it was their “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and that comparison is disturbingly untrue. There is nothing epic going on in this album, and even though Push and Shove is a good song, it’s not going to be a staple of rock radio for the next thirty years. There is some magic when I hear the bass at the chorus, and you’ll find yourself uncomfortably whistling along to its hook. Its style is varied, too; it is one of two songs I consider memorable on the album. The other memorable song on the album, “Undone” sounds like slower cover of a rejected Shania Twain song. Outside of that, “One More Summer” is enjoyable but I fear it’s because the lyrics are such simplistic pop words that you can’t help but like it the way you smile when you see a child (“One more summer / one more weekend / I’m your lover / You’re my weakness”).
Beyond those songs, this album is full to the brim of filler. Not offensive filler, mind you; I won’t be rushing to shut the radio off as a next single comes on air, or as an iPod accidentally shuffles into Gwen’s still golden voice. There won’t be tears of Nickelback as this No Doubt album plays – especially if you’re a fan. But for a band that I once loved dearly to have eleven years between albums, for a band that went on such an epic returning tour (Paramore! Panic! at the Disco! Bedouin Soundclash!), you would hope that the time apart would have helped them come up with the deepest grooves and catchiest hooks they ever released. Alas, even the greats can let you down.
This album, five years from now, will be looked at and viewed as an OK but unmemorable record by a band looking to catch the modern sound. No Doubt caught the modern sound, but forgot to write songs worth more than a throwaway listen.
Review written by Dan Bogosian