In the 11 years since No Doubt’s last record, Gwen Stefani adventured into bubble-gum pop diva-land with two solo albums, launched a clothing line, acted in a feature film, and had a few babies. And I’m sure the other members of No Doubt were busy, too. Push and Shove, No Doubt’s long awaited follow-up album, continues the party that Rock Steady started in 2001. Essentially, Push and Shove is No Doubt’s club album. With anthemic choruses, heavy sub-bass, and slick pop production, it’s hard to imagine club-goers not dancing to this. It’s also hard to believe that this is the same band that once had ska-punk fans skanking in the pit to “Spiderwebs”.
For the No Doubt fans who are still longing for the SoCal band that brought us Tragic Kingdom in 1995, Push and Shove is not the album for you. The band has long abandoned their angsty yet play-it-safe ska-punk guitars when they released Rock Steady in 2001, where they successfully showcased their blend of ‘80’s post-disco dance pop with dancehall music. No Doubt further removes themselves from their sophomoric ska-punk roots on Push and Shove, but this time they replace their distorted guitars and walking ska bass lines for synthesizers. After all, No Doubt are children of the 1980’s, and now that they’re all grown up, they’re not afraid to let it show.
The majority of the album’s gems are crammed in the beginning of the album. Their first single and album opener “Settle Down” doesn’t have the catchiest hook on the album, but its booty-shaking dancehall rhythm fools listeners into believing that the band hasn’t aged in 11 years. “Looking Hot” is a straight-up dance track, until the bridge takes us on a reminiscent journey back to the Tragic Kingdom sound, intermingling a horn section, a simple reggae bassline, and the characteristic SoCal reggae drum groove – briefly teasing old-school No Doubt fans who are still longing for 1995. “One More Summer” highlights why we love Gwen Stefani: “One more summer / One more weekend / I’m your lover / You’re my weakness.” Her simple and honest lyrics remind me of why pubescent pop-punk teens swooned over her in the late ‘90’s.
Even though it does contain some of No Doubt’s most interesting musical moments (“One More Summer”, “Push and Shove”, “Dreaming the Same Dream”), Push and Shove also contains some extremely unmemorable moments (“Undercover”, “Undone”). After the first five tracks, the album seemingly dwindles into mediocre mid-tempo dance songs and middle-of-the-road pop ballads, until they remarkably redeem themselves with the album closer “Dreaming the Same Dream”, where they successfully dive headfirst into dreamy synth pop that would have been fitting for a John Hughes film in 1980’s.
Push and Shove is not as solid of an album as Rock Steady. However, the quartet has never sounded more determined to stay relevant in the popular music world than with the polished, club-friendly tunes on this record. At times they succeed immensely, and at other times they sound unauthentic. Either way, they sound unapologetic for creating danceable synth-pop tunes that are sure to appeal to some of their fan base.