No Doubt

   No Doubt (Interscope, 1992)
   The Beacon Street Collection (Beacon Street, 1995)
     Tragic Kingdom (Trauma/Interscope, 1995)
     Return of Saturn (Interscope, 2000)
     Rock Steady (Interscope, 2001)
     The Singles 1992–2003 (Interscope, 2003)

No Doubt started out in Southern California's fertile ska-punk scene of the early 1990s and eventually blossomed into something more exotic and hydra-headed: a hit-making machine whose interests range from tender ballads to tense electronica and taunting hard rock, fronted by quintessential SoCal siren Gwen Stefani.

First gathering around Stefani and her brother, Eric, in 1987 as an Orange County answer to Madness, No Doubt spent three years developing a local following, eventually attracting interest from several major labels. The eponymous first album is mostly forgettable, a cloying attempt to lighten up everyday rock attitude with a scholarly reduction of ska, and though No Doubt toured, record sales didn't soar. After an indie-released second album (The Beacon Street Collection) and a contract dispute, the band returned with its basic musical strategy for Tragic Kingdom, but this time the songs hit a sweet spot: The singles "Don't Speak," "Just a Girl," and "Spiderwebs" were inescapable in 1996.

With Return of Saturn, ska and island rhythms are subordinated, and the band sounds emboldened, even experimental. The singles don't reach out and grab you quite as aggressively—though some would say "Simple Kind of Life" is a quintessential Gwen Stefani whine—but the production and the songwriting show a nuanced sophistication missing from previous work.

The band returned in 2002 with the blazing single "Hey Baby" (sample lyric: "I'm just sipping on chamomile, watching boys and girls with their sex appeal") and the dub-heavy, overtly poppy Rock Steady. It's a culmination of sorts—partially recorded in Jamaica, the island flavor is strong, spiced with outbreaks of crunchy guitar dissonance and electronic loops, and though the songs are simple, they do indeed rock steady. The Singles anthology catches all the No Doubt radio songs, and adds only a few rarities—a live acoustic version of "Underneath It All," and the collaboration with Bounty Killer "Girls Get the Bass in the Back."

Following Rock Steady, No Doubt went on hiatus as Stefani embarked on a solo career, dressing in ever more colorful coutour and turning out shiny electro-pop on 2004's Love.Angel.Music.Baby (which had the massive hit "Hollaback Girl) and 2006's The Sweet Escape, both of which went platinum. In 2008, No Doubt began work on a new album.

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