Tragic Kingdom

No Doubt

Trauma / Interscope Records, 1995

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Sometimes, it doesn't pay to listen to your wife.

Thanks in part to the success their song "Don't Speak" has had on rock radio, the ska-rock band No Doubt has been gaining a gaggle of fans - not the least of which is Mrs. Thelen, who kept bugging me to buy her their latest album, Tragic Kingdom.

I tried to talk her out of it, remembering the failings their debut album had back in 1992. "I don't care," she said. I told her the album would mostly be made up of the same watered-down shit that has been poisoning the airwaves, like "Just A Girl" and "Spiderwebs."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Finally, I gave in and bought the tape for her - it was that or sleeping in the car, not a smart thing to do in the Midwest in winter - but not before ripping off the cellophane and giving it a spin for myself.

Sometimes, it feels so good to know I was right. Gwen Stefani's tin vocals dominate this album, backed by one of the lamest ska wanna-bes I have ever heard. (You want ska? Check out early Fishbone, check out the Mighty Mighty Bosstones - hell, invest in some old Bob Marley or Desmond Dekker.) Brother Eric makes his farewell performance with the band om Tragic Kingdom, adding keyboards into the mix. He supposedly has gone on to become an animator - smart move.

All the radio-friendly hits are on here - and admittedly, "Don't Speak" does tend to grow on you. But take away the three singles, and you have one lame album. No Doubt's attempts to move into rock, like on "Happy Now?" fail miserably. The songs all seem to be based around Stefani's voice - which puts the rest of the band at a disadvantage.

Are there any good moments on Tragic Kingdom? Besides "Don't Speak," only the song "Sixteen" stands out as having any promise. Actually, that's better than their little-known debut, where the only good song on the tape was the last song.

Readers may notice I've avoided all comments on Stefani's stage sexpot appearance, bare midriff and all. Simple reason for that, kids - because if the songs are terrible, appearance don't mean shit. Three words: Wendy O. Williams. (Those of you who know whom I'm referring to, 'nuff said.)

Tragic Kingdom was a tragic mistake, one which even Mrs. Thelen agrees with now, earning the tape a place way in the back of the legendary Pierce Memorial Archives, next to their debut loser.

But hey, eight dollars is a small price to pay for sleeping indoors.

Rating: D-

User Rating: B



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Trauma / Interscope Records, and is used for informational purposes only.