No Doubt deliver Return of Saturn, their first album of new material in five years, following an unusually harrowing period of confusion, depression and ultimate redemption. To hear singer Gwen Stefani tell it, “The last few years were definitely not my favorite in my life.”
After selling fifteen million copies of its breakthrough 1995 album Tragic Kingdom, the Southern California punk-pop-ska group spent nearly three years on the road supporting singles like “Just a Girl,” “Don’t Speak” and “Spiderwebs.” Then the sugar-rush ended.
Stefani, bassist Tony Kanal, guitarist Tom Dumont and drummer Adrian Young returned home in 1997 only to discover their lives had been turned upside-down. “We were in our own weird little world when we were on tour,” Stefani says. “Coming home, at first I thought I was fine, but then I slipped into this weird depression. I felt like I was going through some transition or growing pains.”
The dark spell lasted throughout the making of Return of Saturn, which by all accounts was a turbulent process. Midway through the recording sessions, No Doubt dumped Tragic Kingdom producer Matthew Wilder and brought in Alanis Morissette collaborator and producer Glen Ballard. Then, when news had already leaked that Return of Saturn was completed, Interscope Records reportedly sent the band back into the studio to come up with a surefire radio hit, “Ex-Girlfriend.”
“This is the type of record that’s going to take people more than one listen to get into,” Young says. “There’s a lot of information. If people are expecting to hear ‘Tragic Kingdom Two,’ they’re in for a disappointment.”
Indeed, Return of Saturn exchanges the exuberance and innocence of its predecessor for complex compositions and unflinching emotional candor. The forthcoming single, “Simple Kind of Life,” is typical of the transformation the group underwent. In it Stefani sings, “I always thought I’d be a mom/ Sometimes I wish for a mistake/The longer that I wait the more selfish that I get.”
“The last record, I was just blossoming as a songwriter,” the pink-haired singer says. “This time, I feel like I found myself. I feel a little arrogant talking about it right now, but I have to say that it feels good. It’s not a manufactured thing being targeted towards teenagers or TRL. You don’t have too many other bands that have been around for a long time and have been able to evolve and grow.”
The band will kick off its summer tour on June 5.