CD reviews: Latest from No Doubt, Nelly Furtado
"Push and Shove"
Ten years is a mighty long time in pop music. Certainly, it’s time enough for former trend-setting pop idols to vanish from the memory of fickle fans or reinvent themselves to blend with the current fad.
It’s been a decade since No Doubt’s last studio album but the band’s latest release, "Push and Shove," makes it look like Gwen Stefani and crew just slipped back from a brief vacation.
Playing on the fickleness of fandom and the short attention span of fans, the new album offers a fusion of delectable sound bytes, serving some things new, a lot of things remembered, and all things yummy in the realm of modern pop-rock.
In short, "Push and Shove" pays tribute in a major way to the buoyant and bubbly No Doubt circa "Rock Steady" (2001) which yielded four hit singles built on the band’s appropriation of ‘80s influences.
Ten years hence, No Doubt retools ska, new wave and synth pop in smart ways to sound almost brand-new in 2012, and most likely, garner the next wave of hits on iTunes.
What feels newly minted is the unabashed passion with which the band reworks the genres it has chosen to “revive” for today’s listeners. Opener “Settle Down” attacks like classic old-school ska. “Looking Hot” shimmers with the heat and craze of Madonna in her dance diva prime. Big rock sound is tattooed all over “Undone” and “Sparkle.”
Throughout CD 1, the infectious melodies behind the No Doubt franchise go up, under and sideways of the band’s formidable batch of new songs. Then there’s CD 2, which retrofits selected tracks in acoustic and club remix modes.
Doubtlessly, there’s no need for pushing and shoving. No Doubt’s predictable ascent to the top of the pop music heap goes on auto-pilot from here on.
"The Spirit Indestructible"
Whoa, Nelly! It’s breakbeat this time plus a whole lot of banging out Madonna sultriness on a bed of M.I.A funky grooves.
After releasing a quixotic Spanish album, Nelly Furtado, former hippie chick with a taste for heavy funk, revs up the dancefloor noise on her latest album. She and producer de jour Ronnie Jenkins hijack M.I.A.’s para-military music making paradigm and morphs it to serve the bohemian ends of mainstream dance pop. It’s Big Time boogie-oogie as Furtado slashes the funky grooves with sexual coos and innuendoes.
What keys the album is its resurrection of the breakbeat which way back in the late ‘80s fueled the streetbeat craze that gave rise to an alternative to gangsta rap and new jack swing.
Almost parallel to No Doubt, Nelly Furtado simply revives an old electronic music genre and she does well giving the full treatment in altered R&B tracks like “Big Hoops (Bigger The Better)” and “Low End Theory.” With her producer and studio crew, she helps spawn curious mixes such as nu-skool breaks meet orchestral pop in “The Most Beautiful Thing” and the guitar reverb that goes with the rhythmic flow of “Something.”
A second disc lets the reggae spirit soar and includes another quaint collaboration, this time featuring the Kenyan Boys Choir. Furtado has taken around M. I. A.’s armed struggle on the road to the new Summer of Love.
"Angela Sings Queen"
Local girl Angela takes on the hits of rock band Queen for a ride to the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar and piano. Touted as the heaviest rock band in the known universe, Queen can be a cumbersome project for deflation with acoustic strings and keys. These Brit heavy hitters are the very antithesis of soft or easy rock abominations.
Needless to say, Angela is a welcome diversion to all the sound and fury of everyday living. It’s relaxing music and she efficiently cools down the frenzy of “Another One Bites The Dust” and “Crazy Thing Called Love.” Unfortunately, it’s not an antidote to GangNam style.