No Doubt

No Doubt

Interscope / Atlantic Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Why do I continue to give these guys (and gal) a chance?

Back when I was sent this tape to review for college press in 1992, I hated it. I thought the ska-on-speed back then was outrageous, and I couldn't get past the hystrionic warbling of Gwen Stefani's voice.

Ah, but guilt crept up on me, seeing that it's been almost 18 months since No Doubt graced the pages of "The Daily Vault," so I crept into the darkest areas of the Pierce Archives (where our security system is a 110-decibel tape of Vanilla Fudge's "You Keep Me Hanging On") and retrieved this tape. I shouldn't have bothered; while age shows that No Doubt was doing the same things six years ago, it doesn't mean it's gotten any easier to listen to.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The only album to feature Stefani's brother Eric as a full-time member of the band, it lays out all the basics that made No Doubt so big just a few years later with Tragic Kingdom: souped-up reggae with some funk thrown in, and a horn section. If there's anything different about No Doubt at this time, it's that the songs about lost love and heartbreak aren't nearly as common. The first vocal track, "Let's Get Back," seems to delve into a broken relationship, and "Doormat" features some of the dumbest lyrics I've ever heard in support of the other's feelings in a relationship. But that seems to be it on this one.

Instead, some of the songs feature hippy-trippy, sometimes dippy lyrics ("Ache," a song one would think is about a broken heart, is about a toothache, for Jah's sake). Other times, Stefani's vocals are terribly hidden in the mix to the point where they're unintelligible - especially on the thrash-ska numbers, which tend to drive me up the wall. Take "A Little Something Refreshing" - no, really, take it and get it the hell out of here.

Fact is, No Doubt features a band that was still very much in the developmental phase. Normally, this would mean that I'd be willing to grant a little leniency, but the problem is I saw no light at the end of the tunnel back in 1992. I still don't. No Doubt is very much locked into the musical style they play, and I don't think they can improve on it.

Now that most of the negative has been said, let me go to the one track I do enjoy: the album's closer, "Brand New Day". It is on this track where things finally seem to fall into place, and the band actually becomes enjoyable. Of course, once you get locked into the groove, the album ends. (A brief instrumental version, "BND," starts the tape.)

Of course, nothing I'm going to say will change the minds of the fans. But if you're expecting early versions of songs in the mold of "Don't Speak," then No Doubt will even disappoint you. Hey, if you like No Doubt, it's your life. But you could spend your money better than on this turkey.

Rating: D

User Rating: C+



© 1998 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 Interscope / Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.