Underneath it all, underneath all the glamour and stardom, No Doubt remain a group of SoCal kids enraptured by the ska revival and new wave. That's their common language, so when they reunited for 2012's Push and Shove, their first album in over ten years, they returned to this shared bond, using it as a back-to-roots template for an album that deftly weaves in contemporary sounds without ever pandering. Part of this dexterity is due to No Doubt expanding their love of ska outward toward reggae and dancehall, underlining their affection with bouncing elastic rhythms and a heavy dose of patois -- nowhere more so than on the Major Lazer-assisted single "Push and Shove" -- a self-conscious move toward musical maturity that does indeed pay off as it plays like an affirmation of roots. Similarly, the cool, glassy gloss of their pop tunes and ballads -- "Gravity," "Undercover," "Heaven" -- feel connected to their grounding in early MTV; perhaps their natural ebullience has been tempered by age, but this remains the same stylish, hooky pop that turned No Doubt into unexpected superstars in the back half of the '90s. It is also the portion of Push and Shove that sounds closest to either of Gwen Stefani's solo albums of the new millennium, bringing to mind not the thumping dance of "Hollaback Girl" but rather the breeziness of "Sweet Escape" and "Cool." And that's the interesting thing about Push and Shove, for as much as there are clever contemporary flourishes -- the most notable being a passing collaboration with dance sensation Diplo -- this is a modest, mature comeback, highlighted by the band's keen awareness of their strengths and subtle, unstated acknowledgment of encroaching middle age. Gwen tackles this subject on "Looking Hot," where she wonders how much longer she can indulge in skintight clothes, but her band has already acknowledged they're no longer the young ska-punks they once were. They've turned into savvy old pros who know when to flex their muscle and when to lay back, and that canny musicality and camouflaged maturity make Push and Shove a satisfying comeback.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine