Wednesday, January 9, 2008

No. 316: Rock Steady

Band: No Doubt
Album: Rock Steady
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: On the band's fifth album, the band took up keyboards and took serious lessons in Jamaican music. In doing so, No Doubt went from being just another TRL favorite to a real force in music and in doing so, sold a whole lot of fucking records.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: No Doubt is often seen as a bastardization of real music, basically copping the shallowest features of the music they admire and mess with it. At best, it's post-modern. At worst, it's just bad copying.
Best song: The album's third single, "Hella Good," is an awesome party anthem.
Worst song: I despise "Hey Baby."
Is it awesome?: Yeah, actually.

I don't care for Gwen Stefani's personal style but I always likee "Tragic Kingdom" for what it was: A pop record. The songs are catchy and radio played the hell out of them.

But, enough about that record.

"Rock Steady" is No Doubt's third record of note (as far as their fame is concerned) and I really wanted to hate it before actually listening to the whole thing. I despise "Hey Baby" and generally don't like the idea of Orange County skaters trying to cop ragga and dancehall.

Then, I listened to the record. There's a lot to like here. The band worked with several producers in order to vary the sound up and it works well. "Running" and "In My Head" have the keyboard sound of an 8-bit Nintendo game, while the Prince-co-written "Waiting Room" sounds, um, a little like a Prince song. "Platinum Blonde Life" is an odd song, but has the sheen of Rick Ocasek's song. "Don't Let Me Down," another Ocasek-produced track, sounds like an update on the Cars' sound. "Hella Good" is a great party anthem.

Oddly, I like the Jamaican-influenced stuff the least on the record. "Underneath It All" sounds like a bad Police cover band and "Hey Baby" is repetitive and obnoxious, echoing the Reggaeton nonsense that I hate.

Nevertheless, I like the record. It's varied and interesting.

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