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Album Review: After 11 years, No Doubt returns strong with 'Push and Shove'

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Ramped up by middling August returns from Matchbox Twenty and Alanis Morissette and then ballyhooed titles from stalwarts like Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews Band and ZZ Top, the fall flood of new albums has officially breached the dam.

Already there has been a horde of smart ones from icons of the fringe: David Byrne & St. Vincent's sharp collaboration Love This Giant, Cat Power's downcast yet strangely happy Sun, dusky treats from Calexico and the Avett Brothers, bold steps forward from Animal Collective and Two Door Cinema Club, more sophistication from Pet Shop Boys and Stars, a spotty salute to Fleetwood Mac.

But this week and next are bringing some of the biggest titles of the bumper crop, including surefire chart-burners from the Killers and Pink, extras-heavy 25th anniversary editions of Michael Jackson's Bad and R.E.M.'s Document, a gems-stuffed sampler from Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music roster, more atmosphere from Grizzly Bear and Band of Horses, must-hears from Aimee Mann and Ryan Bingham, and the first album from Ben Folds Five since the millennium began.

We've got a lot of catching up to do. But we'll start with arguably the three most anticipated releases of the season, all arriving Tuesday, Sept. 25. First up is the return of the Little O.C. Band That Could. Look for our takes on Green Day's ¡Uno! (excellent) and Mumford & Sons' Babel (more of the same) later this weekend.

• No Doubt, Push and Shove (Interscope) – Expectations for this are both sky-high and completely irrelevant, which is what happens when the biggest Orange County band ever finally puts out more than just a Talk Talk cover after 11 years. Have they recaptured the magic? Will they sell like they used to? Does anyone still care?

The good news is that Gwen and the gang have survived years of her middling solo forays and mounting comeback hype to issue perfectly solid product. Their sixth album breaks no ground for the group, as each of the preceding three albums did, particularly 2001's Rock Steady. Yet it's certainly as credible (if also as shallow) as anything Madonna has put out in the intervening decade.

At a time when corporate stars seem to compete with one another to see who can recycle the most generic pulp out of the highest number of producers, No Doubt's return is refreshingly cohesive. This is a dance-pop band at full commercial strength, not music made by committee. Roles remain the same: Tony Kanal the superior sound-shaper, Tom Dumont providing much-needed rock edge to balance out any trendiness, Adrian Young still a muscular but agile anchor – and Ms. Stefani is far from just a girl.

In essence, little has changed, and indeed one of the best things about Push and Shove is that it's such a straightforward extension of the slick groove fantasia they put forth a decade ago. The trouble is that what was progressive back then, for both the band and Top 40 radio, is now standard issue; everyone crafts jams as bangin' as "Hella Good" and "Hey Baby" these days.

Read more of this review on the Soundcheck Blog.


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