No Doubt are one of those bands that I can’t help but like. Classics like “Don’t Speak”, “Just a Girl” and “Ex Girlfriend” pretty much sum up what got me into ska in the first place. Today I’m having a listen to their new album, and sharing my thoughts.
I’m just going to come straight out with it; my biggest problem with this album (and everyone saw this coming already) is that it is way too similar to Gwen’s solo sound, and it’s painfully obvious that they’re really pushing for mainstream success. The first 4 songs on the album have a crotchet bass drum beat… it just feels kind of… obvious. Electronic drums? Heavy synth (is that dub at the start of “Easy”)? Auto-tune? Maybe they’re just trying a bit too hard to be “modern”. Maybe they just really want to be played in clubs.
Maybe the problem is a bit deeper than that; No Doubt were making music for nine years (1992-2001), and now after an eleven year hiatus they release something new. I guess it makes sense that what they come out with now should sound more like what they did during their extensive break, than what they used to do as a band.
I don’t mean to complain; I guess I was just a bit disappointed.
These misgivings about the album put to one side; it’s not all bad news. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that with songs like “Sparkle” they brought back some of their old ska charm. Sparkle felt like something we might have gotten from No Doubt back on Rock Steady. I even heard some brass in there. When Stefani stops crooning and starts pulling that vocal scoop, I can’t stop being glad that No Doubt recorded this album. I love the trombone solo on Sparkle so much.
“Settle Down” has a similar charm. In fact, the more I listen to the album the more I can hear that it is still the same band underneath all the changes that they have made.
So yeah, this album is different to what I hoped for, but I guess it isn’t all that different to what I expected. Add the fact that there are some good songs on this album, and I’m pretty happy. I guess the most disappointing thing is that I feel like No Doubt have attempted to hide their sound in favour of something more mainstream. I would be really happy if these songs came on in a club, but I probably wouldn’t want it any other time – it just isn’t my type of music any more.
Maybe this will grow on me (as music tends to do), and maybe it won’t. Either way I don’t think I’m quite done with No Doubt yet.