By Molly Segers
No Doubt’s Push and Shove actually sounds like a No Doubt record. This may seem like a ridiculous observation, but considering it’s been just shy of 11 years since they put out a record, it was a completely reasonable concern for long time fans. I certainly breathed a sigh of relief. It has everything we’ve come to expect from a No Doubt record – ballads, dancy moments, rock moments, and a horn section (they did start out as a ska band, after all). But you know what is missing? Hopeless romantic Gwen. Refreshingly there is no pining for love, marriage, and babies. She’s already got it. So she’s freed up to talk about something else. There was the occasional step outside her comfort zone, but she’s been consistently one track minded thematically for most of the band’s existence. There is an undercurrent here and there on Push and Shove, but it’s as blatant as “Marry Me” and “Simple Kind of Life”.
This makes for a more grown up record. And why shouldn’t it be? The band members are all in their 40’s now. There are marriages and babies involved now. And their fans have grown up, too. I’m a perfect example of this. I’ve been listening to No Doubt since I was 11 and I bought their last record Rock Steady as a junior in high school. I’m 27 now. I’ve gone through college, grad school, and have a “grown up” job now. If they tried to give the long-term fans exactly the same thing they are used to I don’t think it would have gone over. And ‘Gwennabes” we may be, but some of us do crave a little thematic diversity.
Case in point of this evolution is the first single “Settle Down”. The six minute monster’s chorus of “Ain’t nothing gonna knock this girl down/I’m a rough and tough/I’m a rough tough” is designed for empowerment through sing along, however it lacks the same punch. But I mean that in a good way. The fans that jumped around their bedroom to “I’m Just a Girl” have grown up. We still want to sing along and feel like a total bad ass or get out our anger, but we’ll go back to the original for that. Trying to recreate that magic would be pandering to their audience. This gives us what we want without feeling contrived.
Sonically this record as a whole doesn’t rely as heavily on the reggae and dance hall influence that defined Rock Steady, instead taking its dance vibe from snythy 80’s pop and their ska roots that you can really hear on tracks like, “One More Summer,” Easy,” Gravity,” and Heaven”. The only guest appearance from a rapper, which was a favorite on Rock Steady, is Major Lazer and Busy Signal’s contribution to the title track, which is also one of only two instances when their reggae influences can really be heard. The other being “Sparkle”, which comes complete with a big dose of a sparkly horn section.
It might come off as a cop out, but really my only complaint from this record is that it’s so short. 51 minutes/11 tracks might be pretty standard, but my first listen felt like it was over in an instant. Not to sound like a broken record, but it’s been ELEVEN YEARS. We’ve been promised this record for four years. Could we not get a full hour? I won’t go so far as to say it was completely worth the wait, but really would it be possible to for any record to live up to that kind of prolonged expectation? No, but this certainly comes close.