Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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No Doubt

  • Tragic Kingdom [Trauma/Interscope, 1995] C+
  • Return of Saturn [Interscope, 2000] C+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Tragic Kingdom [Trauma/Interscope, 1995]
Like any pop skyrocket, Gwen Stefani is video-driven, and so hebephrenic you know she unprotests too much. The production's as bizzy as the Ivy at lunchtime, too. But this act's real problem is ska. Since the dawn of two-tone there hasn't been a single band in the style--excluding the punk Rancid but including Madness and the Specials--that was as songful as its fun-besotted partisans claimed. When that hippity-hop beat is hyped up for postpunk consumption, its energy somehow precludes tune. Not that she could sing in the same shower as classic Cyndi Lauper anyway. But classic Belinda Carlisle is another story. C+

Return of Saturn [Interscope, 2000]
Gwen Stefani is forced to battle the perception that she's shallow because shallow is what she is. Like any human being, she has real feelings, but they run about as deep as her hair color and her commitment to ska, and wasn't it polite of me not to bring up her gift for the pithy phrase and the catchy tune? Occasionally her pushing-30 doubts about the single life are touching, like when she imagines Gavin Rossdale would make a good dad. But after five years, two producers, one Spin cover, and one lead review in Rolling Stone, the single Interscope sent her back to the salt mines for is the best thing on her automatic-platinum follow-up. So maybe marriage wouldn't be such a bad idea. No no no, not to Gavin--better she should land a really nice accountant. They have feelings too. C+