Like several albums from the 90s, this is one everyone had to have. It was so popular it jump started No Doubt’s move into the mainstream. It’s a classic and remains one of their best selling albums. Every song may not be amazing, but there are a lot of great ones here. Also, it shows the band’s unique way of making music. They jump from their typical ska sound to a jazz vibe all within a few tracks. This album gave us the classic No Doubt everybody loved and missed when Gwen Stefani went solo.
I’m not going to lie, I never really heard the entire album before. I know the singles, but that’s about it. I do remember my mom had it, but I never bothered to listen to the whole thing until now. I’m glad I did. While I didn’t fall in love with the album, I do think a number of the songs on here are awesome with one being “Spiderwebs.” As soon as it begins we can hear the band’s classic ska feel shining through, but it also mixes this with rock and a little bit of pop. Though the music is bouncy and makes you want to jump around the room, the song itself isn’t as cheerful; it’s about a woman being pestered by a guy who won’t leave her alone. But it doesn’t stop it from being a great song and one that fans still love today.
“Excuse Me Mr” is a really interesting song because it mixes several different genres within the span of three minutes. It begins with frantic, energetic music inspired by punk rock. As the energetic track goes on you hear a little bit of the keyboard, which that has a hint of 80s synth. Just when you think you have the song figured out the bridge comes in and completely changes the sound. Suddenly, it turns into this big band sound from the Jazz era before in launches back into the frantic punk sound. It’s really unexpected, but the band pulls it off flawlessly. “Just A Girl” has a great guitar riff that mixes rock with synth to make the unique sound. The music is pretty much rock mixed in with new wave, especially when we get to the bridge. The song is also great because it explores female stereotypes of being weak and depending on a man. Just hearing her sing things like “I’m just a girl/all pretty and petite/so don’t let me have any rights” sounds so ridiculous, but it’s probably the point of the track.
“Sixteen” is a cool, aggressive track with an in-your-face bass line and an abundance of energy. This tracks finds the group going back to their ska/punk roots, but things get interesting during the bridge. Here, rather than being frantic, the mood grows somber as classic music takes over only to be destroyed by a chaotic guitar solo. It’s one of the more upbeat numbers on the album that is sure to get you moving. The closing track “Tragic Kingdom” is another place where the band mixes classical with ska. There’s definitely a more dramatic sound here with the slow, hypnotizing music. There are even times when it sounds whimsical. As the song comes to a close the music keeps swelling, getting more chaotic to the point where it sounds like a demented circus performance. It’s one of the odder tracks, but still awesome.
While there are some filler tracks like “World Go Round” and “Happy Now,” part of what makes this album so great is the mash up of different genres. “Hey You” presents a psychedelic vibe similar to The Doors and “You Can Do It” is a pure disco song from start to finish. From the funk driven guitar to the hand claps, the fun track sounds like it was ripped from the 70s. Funk makes a return in “Different People” with a splash of an R&B groove. One of the best songs,“The Climb,” has this underground jazz singer vibe to it. When listening to it you can picture Ms. Stefani in a glamorous dress singing in a smoke filled club in black and white, of course. A dash of soul is also found thanks to the horns that come in during the bridge. All these different sounds on the record show that the band were never afraid to change up their sound and that ska wasn’t the only thing they knew how to replicate well.
One thing I noticed about the album is it deals a lot with being true to yourself and messy breakups. It actually feels like the second half is only about break ups. Of course the track that best exemplifies this is “Don’t Speak.” It’s somber, heartbreaking, and the ultimate break up theme. This is where No Doubt gets light and slow. Even when there are moments when the music gets dramatic, it still manages to keep the sad mood. “Sunday Morning” also deals with breaking off a relationship and “End It On This” seems to be about knowing when it’s over and ending before anyone gets seriously hurt. It’s no surprise that this takes over since Gwen was actually breaking up with her boyfriend of seven years, who was also in the band. That had to be torture. I don’t see how she can perform on stage with him for so many years.
Overall, the album gets 8/10. It’s a really great record that’s still awesome today. While not every song is perfect, there are a number of tracks to fall in love with. So many of the songs show the band’s creativity when it came to making their unique sound. Sure, they knew how to do ska, but here they also experiment with classical music, jazz, and even disco. Though there’s a strong break-up theme running throughout the record, it’s still pretty fun and is definitely one of the most notable releases of the 90s.