With today's release of sixth studio album Push and Shove, No Doubt resurfaces on a radically altered landscape. The Southern California quartet that ruled the airwaves with 1995's Tragic Kingdom released its last studio album 11 years ago, before the arrival of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the iTunes Store. The iPod had been out one month.
First Push single Settle Down, a signature blend of pop-rock, ska and dance hall, impressed critics, found a toehold at radio and suggests the foursome still holds sway with the masses.
"We didn't know that Tragic Kingdom was going to fit in anywhere," says drummer Adrian Young, 43, of the breakthrough that sold 8.2 million copies. "We're not that objective about this record, but to us, it sounds like No Doubt in 2012. Stylistically, we never have a clear idea where we're going. We cover a lot of territory. Does it fit in? We don't know."
Guitarist Tom Dumont, 44, adds: "Our goal was to be true to our past and our influences but to be contemporary. That's a fine line. We can't control how it's accepted in the marketplace. We can only be ourselves. We wanted to make a record that we felt great about."
Spirits are high in the cavernous, multistory photo studio where the players, rocking platinum dye jobs and slick attire, are hanging out.
"Once you go blond, it's hard to go back," jokes singer Gwen Stefani, 42.
The four non-brunets huddle around a laptop with director Sophie Muller to watch freshly shot footage for an upcoming video. It's another gleeful moment in the quartet's comeback season after an extended hiatus that had fans wondering whether the hit parade was over.
"The questions started in 2004," Young says. "It did get annoying after a while because we didn't have an answer."
No Doubt, founded in 1986, had no doubts about its return, but the long gap proved frustrating for them as well when Push was pushed back by writer's block, outside commitments and endless tweaking. When the project stalled in 2008, the band decided to hit the road.
"We were going to do a few dates, and of course it turned into 58, the biggest tour we've ever done," says bassist Tony Kanal, 42. "It was our most fun tour ever. The turnout was incredible."
The trek, gamely undertaken without new music, "gave us so much confidence," Stefani says. "We know they're waiting and they care. It was motivating."
'A long journey'
Push's 11 songs, produced largely by Mark "Spike" Stent, were recorded in Los Angeles from late 2009 to mid-2011.
"We got sick of wondering if we were going to finish," Stefani says. "It was a long journey, and that was mostly my fault. I had so much going on in my life."
After 2001's Rock Steady, which sold 2.8 million copies, the band released a compilation, The Singles 1992-2003, with a hit cover of Talk Talk's It's My Life, and toured in 2004 before calling a timeout.
Stefani's fame escalated with a pair of solo albums, 2004's Love. Angel. Music. Baby. and 2006's The Sweet Escape. She launched her L.A.M.B. fashions in 2003 and the Harajuku Lovers line in 2005. Her marriage to rock singer Gavin Rossdale of Bush also boosted her celebrity profile.
In the No Doubt bubble, Stefani doesn't outshine her bandmates. "She's got a lot of talent," Young says. "We get it. She's been a big celebrity for a long time. It can never be a perfect democracy, but that's how we're set up."
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