Highly anticipated ‘Push and Shove’ shines
Album Review | 3.5 out of 5 stars
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 01:10
“Get-get-get in line and settle down!” Gwen Stefani instructs listeners on the opening lyric of No Doubt’s new record, “Push and Shove.” Stefani has good reason to call for a crowd: This is the first album by the celebrated Anaheim rock group since its 2001 release of “Rock Steady.” Like other signature ’90s group ’N Sync, No Doubt’s 10-year hiatus saw its lead singer releasing solo albums and staring in occasional films while the rest of the band undertook less limelight-worthy career ventures. The band first hinted at a resurgence with a 57-date concert tour in North America in the summer of 2009 — the rare comeback tour sans accompanying album for the group to promote — but its comeback has now officially come full circle with the recent release of “Push and Shove.”
Thankfully, the group’s chemistry remains on-point and their music is as lively and colorful as ever. No Doubt’s instrumentalists — Tom Dumont, Tony Kanal and Adrian Young — manage to fuse rock, pop, reggae and ska punk to exhilarating effects on standout tracks like “Looking Hot,” “Easy” and “Heaven.” While Stefani still doesn’t have the most powerful pipes in the business, she has grown as a vocalist and displays sound confidence while singing songs like the power ballad “Undone.” Thanks to these many assets, the California quartet has successfully recreated the gleeful energy of its best-known music, most notably its 1995 blockbuster “Tragic Kingdom.”
As with “Rock Steady,” guest appearances on the album are minimal and a bit obscure — and it pays off. While the two featured artists, Jamaican reggae singer Busy Signal and dancehall duo Major Lazer, are confined to the album’s title song, both craft some of the album’s finest moments. With high-octane lines about Jamaican street life, Busy Signal gives the track the same kind of playful boost that his fellow Jamaican reggae star Bounty Killer gave through his guest verse on 2001’s “Hey Baby,” another of No Doubt’s signature songs.
Lyrically, this record largely sticks to the familiar territories of romance, feminism and fun in the sun. Eleven years ago on “Rock Steady,” for instance, Stefani confided to her romantic interest, “You’re really lovely ... and I’m really lucky underneath it all.” In 2012, on “Gravity,” this sentiment gets an update: “We’re so lucky, we’re still holding on/ Just like Venus in the morning sun/ You and me got gravity.” A nifty metaphor, to be sure, but it doesn’t seem like the gist of the subject matter — that Stefani and her lover will always stay together, even through tough times — has evolved much in the last decade. Still, considering that No Doubt has never been known for exceptionally sophisticated lyrical content, there’s not much on the album to complain about, especially when the lyrics are complemented by impressive instrumentals.
There may not be much lyrical or thematic growth on “Push and Shove,” but there’s no decline in the group’s chemistry or musical creativity, either. The result is a thoroughly engaging album that should satisfy fans and position the band for a bright third decade in the mainstream music industry.