By Gregory Hicks, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 25, 2012
After a ten-year hiatus, No Doubt needed to deliver. Luckily for Gwen and the gang, Push and Shove will surely show the world that the group is still “Looking Hot.”
Push and Shove
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No Doubt remains one of the greatest alternative rock groups, but it’s almost a shock that the group still exists at all. Given the reasonable success of Gwen Stefani’s solo career, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see Push and Shove simply become a third studio album for Stefani, with the illusion of her fellow band members by her side and no musical influence at all on their part.
Through continuing to write its own material and having musical focal points beyond its lead singer, No Doubt has maintained its credibility as a serious group in a modern era. Compare this to the formerly alternative rock group Maroon 5, who thought evolving musically meant having record label hit makers write all of its songs, while becoming unrecognizable as a band beyond the sound of its lead singer’s voice.
The whirlwind of different sounds on the record creates pure perfection for the alternative rock group's efforts to keep with the times and stay true to themselves. The track “Push and Shove” has an overflow of instrumentation, from brass, bass guitar and keyboard to synth, percussion and reggae featuring vocals from Busy Signal.
The album’s second single, “Looking Hot,” is lyrically similar to something that would be found in Stefani’s solo career, with a very pop-star-like “look at me, 'cause that’s what I want” attitude. As a follow-up to the exciting debut of “Settle Down,” it will fit right in with the Top 40 crowd.
“One More Summer” is a melancholy track with reverb washed over Stefani’s voice, an electric guitar and the distant, abstract synths in the background. The production adds a feeling of calm to lyrics that would otherwise express only regret over “wasting all this time ... getting used to (his) mistakes.”
Venturing to the bottom half of the album, listeners are exposed to a more lighthearted, metaphorical side of No Doubt. “Gravity” devotes to the universal strength of love when it’s “into orbit...like Venus in the morning sun.” The track begins by pounding away on the keyboard, a classic approach to generating some up-tempo happiness.
“Undercover” might have crossed the line for lightheartedness, being downright cheesy with the lyrics. Feeling like “a cat up in a tree” or being “on your tip toes trying not to get caught” seems a tad immature. At least one flawed track on a record is normal, but next time save the phrase and sell it to Taylor Swift.
Much credit must be given to Mark ‘Spike’ Stent for the group’s successful sound, however. As the producer for the entire album, the group was in good hands. Stent worked on No Doubt's previous album Rock Steady, and has experience producing for bands such as U2, Coldplay, Muse and Linkin Park.
With great success in the field of producing for major groups, Stent assisted in putting together an album very full in sound, with or without the added digitalized instrumentation. The thin layer of electronica hovering throughout the record creates a work that fits in with a new decade while maintaining old fans. So will there be a future for quality alternative music? No doubt.