No Doubt: Push and Shove

After Gwen Stefani's hugely successful solo career, a new No Doubt album seems unnecessary, unless the band's goal is to reconstitute ska into an even more morbid form.

No Doubt

Push and Shove

Label: Interscope/Polydor
US Release Date: 2012-09-25
UK Release Date: 2012-09-24
Artist Website

No Doubt's songs make me think of rich white girls shopping. Latter day songs such as "Hey Baby" and "Hella Good" seemed to be on constant rotation at the upscale King of Prussia mall in Pennsylvania. No Doubt's new album, Push and Shove -- their first in 11 years -- has the added offense of bearing the reminder of Gwen Stefani's solo career, a hugely successful move which made any further No Doubt releases seem unnecessary, unless the goal was to reconstitute ska into an even more morbid form than on previous outings. Push and Shove mostly dispenses with that and continues to remind us that Stefani has become a major pop star instead. For credibility points, Diplo is thrown into the mix as producer, but has little luck in saving any songs that had potential.

The album's greatest affront is that the lyrics are abysmally bad. True, not many people listen to pop music for explicatory purposes, but a good pop songwriter can still find interesting ways to express love or sadness, or can state things in a way that cuts to the heart in its simplicity. The lyrics on Push and Shove do none of those things; on top of that, they include such wretched lines as "Just when you think it's over/we be on another level like we're doing yoga." Even worse is the casual hood-speak. Hearing Stefani, an avid cultural appropriator (remember the mute Japanese slave girls who featured largely into her first solo release?), boast about hustling is eyebrow-raising in a bad way. Her mention of "robbin' the hood" on "Easy" could be a reference to fellow California ska band Sublime, but it’s still not an authentic thing to hear coming from a millionaire’s mouth. True, the band's leader often resorts to slang in her lyrics, but by this point it just feels tired.

Stefani is truly best at writing what she knows. The best song on the album is "Looking Hot", a paparazzi-baiting semi-rocker with a chorus suited for cardio class. Although Lady Gaga has a better handle on songs about being famous, “Looking Hot” at least creates a diversion from the conventional relationship fodder of most No Doubt tunes. That the song is both the second single and the second song on the album -- and that it is preceded by first single "Settle Down" -- is pretty indicative of Push and Shove being a very top heavy release. At least one critic has said that “Settle Down” has a leg up on anything fellow Diplo collaborator Santigold has ever done. Seeing as guest star Busy Signal owns the title track’s brightest moments, it feels likely that “Settle Down” hardly would have suffered had Santi White come in to throw down on the song.

After “One More Summer” -- which has a gigantic chorus perfectly suited for Wet Seal’s speakers -- and the inconsistent but decent title song, the album becomes so filler-centric that even the tracks' titles (“Gravity”, “Undercover”, “Undone”, “Sparkle”) are interchangeable. “Undone”, Push and Shove’s primary ballad, at least offers a change of tempo, but the song itself is a total bore. The album closes on “Dreaming the Same Dream”, a song that sounds eerily similar to Stefani solo hit “Cool”. This is a puzzling point on which to end, as it nails home the question of why exactly No Doubt are at it again when Stefani did most everything on Push and Shove and (admittedly) did it better during her solo stint.

Avid No Doubt fans -- apart from those who stopped at Tragic Kingdom -- may not care and buy the release anyway. If that happens, Stefani and crew will hopefully be rich enough to stop caring about the cool kids and cease all the posturing. If the band wises up that much, maybe they’ll write songs exclusively for shopping malls on the next go 'round.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.