Volume 6, Issue 2 University of Houston
No Doubt's 'Singles' rocks
By Bridget Brown
Somewhere in Southern California, former No Doubt member Eric Stefani is probably feeling a little flustered. It's been almost 17 years since the ska group he founded played its first show on Dec. 31, 1986, and in 1995 his clever opening guitar hook to "Just a Girl" launched the band into a staple of mainstream pop music --without him.
This is just a morsel of the drama his kid sister Gwen and band mates Tom Dumont, Tony Kanal and Adrian Young have endured throughout No Doubt's career. There has been girl trouble, boy trouble, band trouble and even a suicide --all of which have been chronicled through the band's five albums. The group decided to take a moment to reflect with the release of No Doubt: The Singles 1992-2003.
Gwen Stefani and company give No Doubt's old and new fans something worthwhile in No Doubt: The Singles 1992-2003.
The group's self-titled 1992 debut saw the band staking its claim in the Southern California scene. Already together six years, the group was beginning to move past its ska roots. However, there's no denying the influences of bands like Madness and Fishbone on the single "Trapped in a Box" --with Gwen's sultry voice belting out "Trapped in a box / watch the world as it flocks / To life's paradox / We're all trapped in a box" over a bouncy pop rhythm.
There's 1995's Tragic Kingdom, which had girls across the nation practicing Gwen's perfect lip pout while shrieking out the post-feminist lyrics to the album's first single, "Just a Girl." "Sunday Morning," "Excuse Me Mister" and "Spiderwebs" were follow-up singles that drew even more attention. The jealous undertones in the lyrics made "Don't Speak" a beautiful, yet subtle ballad. The song became a No.1 hit, and the young band had to deal with a new world of possibilities and endless popularity.
As a post-Tragic Kingdom treat, the band recorded "New" for the Go soundtrack. This was just a taste of things to come for the much anticipated third album Return of Saturn. This record proved that five years later Gwen's dilemma of feminist angst disappeared and was replaced with feelings of hanging in limbo between childhood and womanhood. Singles "Bathwater," "Ex-Girlfriend" and "Simple Kind of Life" had cutting lyrics that led to a clean, simplistic feel not found on earlier efforts.
The constant presence of dancehall music during the Return of Saturn tour spawned Rock Steady just a year later. Dipping a little too far into mainstream, the reggae vibes and new wave synth left many fans of No Doubt's early albums skeptical of the band's motives. But each of the singles was simply a product of a mature band, with Gwen giving up her throaty voice for a prettier, lighter sound, and each of the guys sounding confident on their instruments. "Hey Baby," "Underneath it All," "Hella Good" and "Running" revealed to the masses No Doubt's new upbeat and completely listener-friendly sound.
The group's newest single, a cover of 1980s new wave band Talk Talk's "It's My Life" fits perfectly with The Singles' take on the radio evolution of No Doubt.
The album is a mix of the band's past and present with a touch of the future. It gives old fans a way to reminisce with detailed liner notes and newbies a chance to grow up with the group and read its bio. More importantly, the quality of all of No Doubt's radio singles promises fans more drama in the future.
No Doubt: The Singles 1992-2003
The verdict: We love you, Gwen!
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