It’s a tricky time for No Doubt, trying to recapture their vitality of more than a decade ago – a lifetime in music years – while not looking silly or inappropriate in the process.
On the long-in-the-works “Push and Shove,” Gwen Stefani and the boys do an able job striking that balance while also making their frothy combination of ska, punk and pop sound fresh.
As they’ve aged, detoured with solo projects and clothing lines and families, the group has obviously achieved more maturity in their writing. The album’s best example is “Undone,” a sparse (for this musically busy band) pop-country ballad that is effective, yet not nearly as raw and vulnerable as the twentysomething angst that colors “Don’t Speak.”
And that isn’t a bad thing at all.
On “Looking Hot” – which Stefani, almost 43, admirably is – she isn’t bragging about her Dorian Gray body, but instead taking a more circumspect look at the ephemeral shelf life of a pop star (“Running on empty, but I have had plenty. You’re complimentary but I’m just pretending”).
Musically, the band doesn’t stray much from the sound that has always identified them –which longtime fans will readily accept.
“One More Summer” is a glossy popper with unabashed ‘80s leanings that sounds as if it could have been plucked from the leftover pile of Stefani’s solo years, while “Heaven” is the type of loping tune that really wouldn’t sound out of place on the radio next to Taylor Swift and Pink.
No Doubt throws in some of its signature off-kilter rhythms, too, such as on the pulsing title track with its contemporary reggae touches and lead single “Settle Down,” which, despite the absence of a genuine chorus or hook, is somehow infectious.
While nothing on “Push and Shove” is dynamic enough to inspire any “ya gotta hear this now!” urgency, it’s a healthier music world when No Doubt is part of it.
Also available Tuesday:
Green Day, “Uno!”, the first of three planned albums by the band, which has put some promotional appearances on hold in the wake of Billie Joe Armstrong’s substance abuse issues. Nonetheless, if you’ve seen any of their recent live performances, you know that they’re still as vital as ever.
Mumford & Sons, “Babel,” the second album from the breakout stars, who wrote most of it on the road since they’ve rarely left it since 2009’s “Sigh No More” exploded.
Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1,” obviously the first in a series of at least two albums Fiasco has planned. This one sports 17 tracks.
John Hiatt, “Mystic Pinball,” on which Hiatt and his band, The Combo, promise the usual amalgamation of blues, folk and gospel combined with Hiatt’s incisive lyrics.
As I Lay Dying, “Awakened,” the sixth studio album from the California metal band.
Deadmau5, “Album Title Goes Here,” which might be the most perfectly named album, well, ever. For his sixth album, the EDM star enlisted contributions from Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance and Imogen Heap.
Pete Seeger, “A More Perfect Union,” featuring duets with Bruce Springsteen, Tom Morello, Dar Williams and others. The songs are said to reflect the 93-year-old Seeger’s thoughts on recent political, economic and environmental issues.
For a comprehensive rundown of all of this week’s new releases, check out http://www.pauseandplay.com/.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene