First Push and Shove Album Reviews

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The first official reviews are coming out for Push and Shove (including SPIN, which we think their criticisms might be a little pre-mature). We have decided to keep them all under cuts to avoid spoilers.

We will keep this post updated as they come in.

SPIN — No Doubt’s first album in 11 years has arrived a bit early. Here, five SPIN editors give their hasty and completely impulsive opinions…

David Marchese:
Gwen Stefani is the icon, but listening to Push and Shove makes me bow before bassist Tony Kanal and drummer Adrian Young. I don’t want to be one of those knobs who’s like, “Actually, the rhythm section is the thing that makes this music work,” but…I’m gonna be that knob. On the new album, those two make the band sound natural on everything from sleek arena rock (“Easy”), to rockish dancehall (“Settle Down”), to hard dance-pop (“Looking Hot”), to the modern-country power-balladry of “Undone,” which has a faint vintage Taylor Swift-y vibe. (Yes, we can now speak of a vintage Taylor Swift era.) No matter what style, Kanal and Young make sure No Doubt never comes off like they’re donning different styles in a desperate attempt to step to a hit. Every song breathes. Every song moves. And in terms of pure, Gwen-supplied pipsqueak-goddess hooks, this album sounds full of singles. I couldn’t really point to anything on Push and Shove as being so complicated or emotionally fraught that it explains why it took 11(!) years for the band to come up with the follow-up to Rock Steady and that’s a relief. Phooey on tortured comebacks. Huzzah for pop instincts! And did I mention the rhythm section?
Early score: 8/10

Christopher R. Weingarten:
No Doubt absorb what’s in the atmosphere — hell, if they didn’t, those two platinum Gwen Stefani albums might have sounded like Fishbone or Moby or something. And swagger-jacking contemporary art-pop is way more on the ball than late-passing themselves to the Neptunes party in 2001 (and, yeah, “Settle Down” is a better Santigold song than most Santogold songs). The tracks that nail it (“Settle Down,” “Sparkle”) are cosmopolitan, gnarly, Gnarsly pop bliss, where guitars and drums actually sound sampled, some kind of modern magic that only the Roots crew can pull off. Unfortunately EDM is very 2012 too, and all the requisite Starshippery is like limp Metric at best and Spawn soundtrack at worst. By the time they start hitting the chords from “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” in “Dreaming the Same Dream,” you half expect Ryan Gosling to crash his car into a Calvin Harris set yelling just hoping that he can catch some of the zeitgeist on his bumper. Extra points off for “La la la living la vida loca / Speeding up like soca / Just when you think it’s over / We be on another level like we’re doing yoga,” which rips off a Madonna song that charted worse than her “American Pie” cover.
Early score: 6/10

Brandon Soderberg:
No Doubt do the minimum amount of pandering to fistpumping here, hiding the thump of EDM always in the background. Then again, Stefani’s 2004 solo hit “What You Waiting For?” beat our current “hook only” era nine years before this stuff even existed. The album’s biggest dance influence turns out to be the best dance influence: New Order. For real, the Chromatics should be jealous of the longing-filled Bernard Sumner-esque guitars on “One More Summer.” Hell, New Order themselves should be a little jealous. Push and Shove gives me the same this-is-pretty-great-but-no-one-will-care-and-that’s-a-bummer feeling that Nina Sky’s Nicole & Natalie gave me a couple months ago. Here’s some good maybe great, pop that shows some restraint and a lot of personality, so it might as well be dead in the water?

“Looking Hot” is the single. Not actual single, “Settle Down.” Obscenely catchy, “Looking Hot” finds time to indulge a Linkin Park echo-laden breakdown, and a country-fried K-Pop dub reggae bridge. Maximalism, people! Not going to lie, moments of Push and Shove sound desperate like Madonna’s last one, especially when Gwen gets her rap on, but Stefani — the bridge between early ’90s inspirational riot grrrl attitude and complacent late ’90s teen pop; master appropriator long before M.I.A. or Nicki — deserves a pass because she’s awesome. All the studio tricks here are loads of fun — diet caffeine free dubstep wub on “Easy,” impossibly clean acoustic guitar on “Undone”— but they’re also thrown in there to keep the thing moving.
Early score: 6/10

Rob Harvilla:
Yep. Got that fake patois. Gwen Stefani did a fake patois. Tony Kanal did a fake patois. The other two guys did a fake patois. Pronounce can’t like Kant in a fake patois. Chase that Katy Perry money with your fake patois. No obvious single inna fake patois. Oughta join Sugarland with that fake patois. “D’ya think I’m lookin’ hot?” inna fake patois. Too many ballads sink a fake patois. Every song is too long despite fake patois. “One More Summer” is nice, though — fake patois. What you know about overproduction? What you know about overproduction? Haven’t sounded like a band since Return of Saturn. Haven’t sounded like a band since Return of Saturn. YEH NAH GWAN OUTSELL MUMFORD AND SONS WIT DE FAKE PATOIS.
Early score: 5/10

Caryn Ganz:
No Doubt’s last album came out so long ago, nobody could tweet about its premature leak because there was no Twitter (heck, there was no Friendster in 2001). But the band has done something wise to prevent a yuk-a-thon about the bloated length of their hiatus: made an album that sounds naturally, not desperately, as 2012 as anything else worthwhile that’s arrived this year. Though the record is nearly one-quarter placid pop songs — they’re stacked in the center of the album: “Easy,” “Gravity,” “Undercover” — it’s clear Gwen Stefani and Co. have a real affection for the (sometimes problematic) globe-trotting on which they built their name. The set opens on Santigold-y rave-up “Settle Down” and is named after the jittery Diplo collaboration where Stefani goes head-to-head with Major Lazer and Busy Signal. (Unsurprisingly, they win, but it’s a super-fun listen.)

The quartet has had plenty of time to buff Push and Shove to perfection and its 11 tracks sound meticulously crisp, though No Doubt has always been a top-notch studio band. (The horns on this LP sound particularly fantastic.) There’s an ’80s-esque pop song that would have fit perfectly on Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream (“One More Summer”), a ballad that was destined for Carrie Underwood (“Undone”), and a gauzy synth tune that’s an update on Stefani solo track “Cool” (“Dreaming the Same Dream”). But more importantly, there are no major missteps. After two albums of dancey pop, Stefani has no troubles trading in her Harajuku Girls for her Cali boys. Even better, she doesn’t sound bored. “Do you think I’m looking hot?” she sneers on the record’s most worthwhile listen, the paparazzi kiss-off “Looking Hot.” Um, yes?
Early score: 7/10

AVERAGE SCORE: 6.4

Slant Magazine — The guys and gal of No Doubt have never been bashful about their arduous songwriting process.

Both their 1995 breakthrough, Tragic Kingdom, and its follow-up, Return of Saturn, infamously took years to complete. Perhaps tellingly, the band’s best album, 2001’s Rock Steady, was written and recorded in just a few short months. But while Push and Shove, their first album in 11 years and only their fifth in two decades, didn’t come to fruition quite as effortlessly as its predecessor, sonically it plays like a logical continuation, reprising that album’s dancehall and dub styles and largely eschewing the ska sound that made No Doubt famous in the first place.

True to its name, Push and Shove explodes out of the gate, starting with lead single “Settle Down,” a track that, at least after a regal orchestral intro, wastes no time reassuring listeners that the band hasn’t settled down despite the fact that all of its members are now in their early 40s and have eight children among them. “I’m fine,” Gwen Stefani promises in her trademark lilting harmonies, “Nothing’s gonna knock this girl down.” Like No Doubt’s best singles, “Settle Down” somehow manages to be both silly and cool. “Looking Hot” and the Major Lazer-assisted title track likewise play both sides: They’re unabashedly on trend, employing Eurotrash synth melodies and 4/4 beats, but never acquiesce the signature No Doubt sound. Stefani waxes nostalgic, as is her wont, over cool, wistful synths and a stomping kick drum on “One More Summer,” an epic new-wave track that’s one of the album’s best, and “Easy,” a moody electro ballad that’s diminished only by a chorus that treads a bit too close to ’80s yacht rock.

By and large, the more interesting tracks are stacked on the front end of Push and Shove, and the songs on the second half of the album are comparably safer, blurring together upon first listen. The country-flecked “Undone” finds the band charting new territory, but beyond some slide guitar strains, the song is just your average, run-of-the-mill pop-rock ballad, while the bubble-gum pop “Heaven” sounds like filler from an album by Kylie Minogue, Lady Gaga, or, hell, even Gwen Stefani. The exception is “Sparkle,” which simply teems with hooks and wouldn’t sound out of place alongside the best tracks on Rock Steady. The track exemplifies everything No Doubt is about: marrying dancehall and pop, and juxtaposing hard and soft.

Crave Online — It’s been eleven years since No Doubt released an album of new material. In that time they’ve given fans a batch of best of compilations while anatomically crippling front woman Gwen Stefani made us hate the word “Bananas” with the 2004 single “Holla Back Girl” from her first solo record Love. Angel. Music. Baby. (she had another solo album in 2006 but nobody cared). After all the fashion shows, false starts and solo records, No Doubt have reconvened to try and reclaim their power grip on Top 40 Radio.

I was not expecting like Push And Shove for the simple reason that I don’t like No Doubt. Outside of Tragic Kingdom, which I still enjoy, most of their music has been a sloppy attempt to recapture the ska-punk vibe of that record. I guess the eleven years out of the spotlight have given the band some perspective on their music because Push And Shove is a power-pop album of the highest order. I know, I know, call the board of underground music and start the paperwork to have my bitter music critic license revoked because man, I really dig this record.

The first thing that works is No Doubt have given up trying to be ska-punk. Push And Shove is a massive pop endeavor, complete with lots of electronics and super catchy dance numbers. Even when the band slow down for the predictable ballads, they keep this eighties electronica vibe that just works. Stefani was born to sing this kind of easy and sweet material. The opening track, “Settle Down” has a bump and grind beat to it, kind of reminiscent of “Holla Back Girl”. It’s light and airy and instantly make you want to shake your butt. The party continues with “Looking Hot”, a straight up club banger with a thumping bass/drum line that will not only get the party jumping but I guarantee will play behind endless models walking the runways of Milan and Paris.

“One More Summer” is the band’s first ballad but they keep the dance theme. Think Bananarama meets “Crazy For You” era Madonna. “Easy” replaces the boogie down with a song straight off the end credits of any epic teen romance movie. “Easy” sweeps high and uses Stefani’s voice and keyboards to plug those sad panda heartstrings. It doesn’t really talk to the grief and desperation of a failed romance, more the “I’ll get through this” side of breaking up. “Gravity” is back to big pop. The tune you and your friends go to the club and dance to so as to forget that bastard or bitch you just ended things with.

“Undercover” is one of the highlights of Push And Shove. I defy anybody not to start dancing the instant this song kicks in. The combination of Stefani’s vocal line, starry keyboards and disco back beat has instant club hit written all over it. The rest of the album keeps up the pop soufflé of party anthems with the exception of “Undone” a well-executed ballad that frames the power of Stefani’s pipes nicely.

If I had any complaints it would be that No Doubt didn’t end the album with “Heaven”. It’s one of the strongest tunes on Push And Shove and it works much better as an ender than “Dreaming The Same Dream” which is forgettable. The only real problem with the album is the title track. “Push And Shove” is the only time No Doubt try to get all reggae/ska and it sounds way too posed and forced. The first three songs are so strong that “Push And Shove” is like hitting a stonewall. Thankfully the rest of the record is good enough to get around it.

I really wanted to hate this album because I don’t like this band, but I can’t. I feel like Jack Black in High Fidelity listening to the demo tape from the shoplifting skate kids. The fact that I’m enjoying this album so much is working against my predisposition of bile towards Stefani and crew. Is Push And Shove and important record? No, not at all. Is it pure pop confection with little weight to it? Absolutely. Stefani’s voice is more an instrument here, something pretty to go atop the music. Her lyrics are as simple and forgettable as they always have been but what else can she do. Deep lyrics about the anguish of life played over dance beats has only ever worked for New Order.

Eleven years after they left the scene, No Doubt have returned and brought with them a pop arsenal that will blow a hole through anything else currently making waves in Top 40 Radio. 8/10

9 Replies to “First Push and Shove Album Reviews”

  1. Mmmm…why are the criticisms ”premature”? They’re just plain criticisms. It seems the editor of this page has a lot of trouble with conflicting opinions regarding the band, kind of like some overprotective parent.

  2. That Iann Robinson dude of Crave Online is so pathetic. I couldn’t take his review seriously even though he liked the album… Ridiculous!

  3. Gwen Stefani is the most prettiest woman in HollyWood to day. I am a white libra man,my name is larry steininger. I love you Gwen stefani 1000% my phone number is 1-626-915-8635

  4. I’ve listened to maybe half the album now and I have to say I went from being unsure/disappointed to VERY PLEASED. Those short snippets on iTunes do not tell the whole story! I can’t wait to listen to the rest!

    The Crave Online reviewer seems to have a chip on his shoulder when it comes to Gwen. What? Did she not give you an interview during The Sweet Escape era? Jerk.

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