Let’s face it—with their feet originally deep in the party dancehall-ska scene of yesteryear, no one would really expect No Doubt’s comeback album Push And Shove (their first in over a decade) to be a “serious” album. For that matter, for this kind of band to even make an album after all this time presents a serious risk, considering that so much in the dance/pop scene has changed since their last record. Gwen Stefani might just as well have played it safe continuing as a solo act.
Happily, No Doubt has walked the tightrope perfectly. They’ve given us a record that pays proper respect to their dancehall roots while bringing in just enough modern elements to make it current—and they’ve managed to do it in such a way that creates a blend of old and new that sounds neither dated nor faddish.
Predictably, Push And Shove is light and danceable overall—i.e., not “serious”—but is presented in such a way that makes us take No Doubt seriously. This record is neither an older, slower band trying to be more reflective of years gone by, nor a feeble attempt of an older band trying to prove it still has party chops. It’s just No Doubt doing what they do best, relevant to the twenty-teens.
So let’s talk about the album’s high points. Fans of No Doubt’s “glory days” will find great solace in dancehall riffs like the opening track “Settle Down” and “Sparkle,” while “One More Summer” and “Dreaming the Same Dream” are tips-o’-the-hat to 80’s rock and New Wave. Meanwhile, “Looking Hot” and “Gravity” take a more modern spin toward electro-pop and EDM flavors. Perhaps the best hybrid of old and new appears in the title track “Push and Shove” (feat. Busy Signal and Major Lazer), which pumps with a ska-reggae beat, only to break down at the chorus into the closest the band gets to dubstep without actually “going there”, punctuated with Busy Signal’s Jamaican-tinged rap. Great balance in the track list overall–and Gwen Stefani’s vocals are surprisingly strong throughout.
I referred to this as a “tightrope” earlier because there is so much that could have gone wrong here. The band could have tied themselves too closely to their roots, which would have made them sound dated. On the other hand, they could have leaned too much toward electropop and EDM, which would have seemed like a desperate maneuver to ride the waves of popularity again. As it is, No Doubt has walked between these perilous pitfalls without a misstep; honestly, it’s the gustiest and smartest move I’ve seen by such a band in some time. If anyone had any concerns about this comeback, Push And Shove should leave…um…No Doubt.
Oh, come on. You knew it was coming.