When a group plays an industry show (where the label execs attend) a recording contract is usually forthcoming. No Doubt's first crack at the big time came just before Christmas in '87 at the Roxy in Hollywood. But earlier that year, lead singer John Spence had shot himself in an Anaheim park. Gwen Stefani made the move from backing to lead vocals, but the group, still trying to recover, didn't do so well. They decided to break up. But a couple of days later, they reversed their decision.
No Doubt - Gwen and brother Eric, Tony Kanal (bass), Adrian Young (drums) and Tom Dumont (guitar) - opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ziggy Marley, among others. They were signed by Interscope Records where they were expected to rule. However, the early '90s were driven by Grunge and No Doubt literally couldn't get radio play. It got so bad that the music director at their hometown radio station (KROQ/Orange County) said it would take an act of God to get them on the air.
'93 saw work begin on "Tragic Kingdom" but this project went in fits and starts without taking hold. Then Eric Stefani bailed in '94. He decided to stick with his day job as an animator for "The Simpsons" TV show. Smart decision? '95 was the year it all finally connected. First, No Doubt released the "Beacon Street Collection," ten tracks ranging from finished songs to demos. Then they played the main stage on the first Warped Tour.
Finally, with "Tragic Kingdom" released in October of '95, No Doubt's Ska-New Wave-Punk-Rock sound found an audience. A huge audience. The ballad "Don't Speak" broke the ice but it was the Rockers "Just A Girl" and "Spiderwebs" that made a lasting impression. The CD sold more than fifteen million copies. Talk about dues paying off. The next few years were a blur of tours, award shows, personal appearances, one-off projects (Stefani recording "You're The Boss" with the Brian Setzer Orchestra) and magazine covers/stories (featuring Gwen). Well, all that was bound to take a toll, so the group took a break.
Recording "Tragic Kingdom" had been a two-year process. There was no indication the follow-up, started in early '99, would be any different. A CD-and-a-half worth of material was recorded, then discarded. No Doubt entered the studio again with seasoned pro Glen Ballard producing. "Ex-Girlfriend" led off April '00 release "Return To Saturn," as both the first track and first single. "Bathwater" and "Simple Kind Of Life" were also hot Rockers. But despite strong songs and performances "Return To Saturn" suffered from a critical backlash due to "Tragic Kingdom's" mega success.
The dance, Hip Hop and Reggae derived "Rock Steady" hit the shelves in '01. "Singles: 1992-2003" covered the expected turf and added a hit cover of Talk Talk's "It's My Life." "Boom Box" contained the singles, remixes, b-sides and unreleased material. There was also a disc of the group's videos.
While Stefani was busy with her solo career, Dumont released a solo project, "Invincible Overlord," Young worked with Bow Wow Wow and Unwritten Law and Kanal collaborated with Pink.
Work began on No Doubt's comeback album while Stefani was promoting her sophomore solo set. The project slowed when Stefani became pregnant with her second child. But eventually the production got back on track.
"Push And Shove," the group's first album of original material in over a decade, landed a year later and featured the single "Settle Down."
Stefani's solo career far eclipsed her No Doubt bandmates' extracurricular ventures until word arrived in early '16 that AFI's Davey Havok had teamed with Dumont, Kanal and Young to form a group and that they had already completed an album.
1992 No Doubt
1994 The Beacon Street Collection
1995 Tragic Kingdom
2000 Return Of Saturn
2001 Rock Steady
2012 Push and Shove
Sometimes a group's most popular work is also their best. "Tragic Kingdom," a CD that was years in the making, burst through the post-Grunge Rock world. But the album is also the best and most focused effort the group has produced. "Return of Saturn" is a solid follow-up that keeps "Tragic Kingdom's" audience happy. Both No Doubt's self-titled debut and "Beacon Street Collection" are strictly for fans. The former is a tentative beginning while the latter serves as a catchall for unreleased material.
Like most musical genres Reggae is easy to approximate but difficult to nail. No Doubt's Reggae attempts on "Rock Steady" just don't cut it. Nor do their slack stabs at Hip-Hop. What makes No Doubt interesting is their ability to incorporate Reggae, Ska and other influences into Rock. On "Rock Steady," employing numerous "name" producers, that concept is abandoned. The CD opens with "Hella Good," a song that could easily pass for an '80s Madonna dance track. Not a good sign. If you're wondering what the latter day Cars would have sounded like with a female vocalist, there are two tracks co-produced (along with No Doubt) by the Cars' frontman, Ric Ocasek. While hardly stellar, "Platinum Blonde Life" and "Don't Let Me Down" constitute the CD's high points.
In an attempt to please the average music buyer and satiate fans No Doubt pursues two courses in '03. "Singles: 1992-2003" is a solid "hits" compilation. "Boom Box" has the hits and more. But b-sides are b-sides - no real surprises or gems. The previously unreleased material ranges from good to merely OK. A person needs more than a passing interest in No Doubt to really enjoy it.
"Push And Shove" is more reminiscent of Stefani's solo career than vintage No Doubt. "Looking Hot" is the lone Dance/Rock track. The rest of the album favors straight Dance ("Gravity" and Undercover") or pure Pop ("Heaven" and "Settle Down").