Review: "Rock Steady," by No Doubt

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"Rock Steady," No Doubt's fifth album, finds the band impressively easing into its proper role as ambassador of a good time. "Hella Good," one of a number of tracks on the album produced by the accomplished Nellee Hooper (of late U2 and Bjork fame), sounds like an eighties roller-rink party. The good time flashbacks don't end there. "Don't Let Me Down," produced by Ric Ocasek, with its Cars-like bass line, spacey keyboards and layered vocals is the perfect melding of the best of what both the eighties and No Doubt have to offer.

"Hey Baby," the album's precocious and flirty first single, is Gwen Steffani's latest proclamation ofgirl power. With a cameo by Bounty Killer and an undeniably infectious chorus, No Doubt are back to show the TRL crowd exactly what a good, irreverent pop song sounds like.

The most prominent collaboration on the album is a production credit and cameo by Prince on the track "Waiting Room." He lends his trademark sex appeal and uncanny sense of harmony to the song, which proves to be his best supporting role appearance since "Love Song" on Madonna's 1989 "Like a Prayer."

No longer just a hyper tom girl, Steffani has transformed herself into a one-woman rock enterprise. Her recent solo endeavors (well received guest appearances on tracks by Moby and Eve) have helped to make her more comfortable with her power and appeal. It's on the album's title track that we really hear how far she's come over the last few years. Her self-assured, laid-back persona takes over the song.

Rock Steady is a very well mixed, written, and produced record that successfully incorporates ska-pop, new wave, and dancehall without sounding contrived or chaotic. It may not have the raw, high energy of their big hit album "Tragic Kingdom" (and probably won't sell as many copies), but it is, without question, their greatest effort to date. It is the sound of band dropping pretense to realize its potential.