No Doubt’s 20th Anniversary of Influential Sound

On March 25th, Orange County’s new wave and ska-revival rockers, No Doubt, celebrated the 20th year anniversary of their sophomore album, The Beacon Street Collection, which was originally released in 1995, and later reissued in October of 1997. Despite their first album not generating the success that the band originally had in mind, The Beacon Street Collection was a defining moment for the band, their sound, and a direction of their influences cultivated by each member of their personal style.

While everyone may look to Tragic Kingdom as the mark that broke No Doubt into the airwaves and on a plateau above the rest, the real light should be shined on The Beacon Street Collection. I’m here to celebrate the album that sets the foundation for the sound of No Doubt, and the band’s determination and music creativity throughout the years of their career.

So, what made The Beacon Street Collection a defining point? For this we need to go back to 1992 when their self-titled EP No Doubt was released. This was a time where hits on the radio were The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Under the Bridge, Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy,” and of course the grunge of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.” No Doubt’s jangly and all-over-the-place EP had no place in comparison to artists as these in the early ’90’s.

Heavily influenced by ska, and part of the third new wave revival movement, No Doubt, always contained the element of experimentation. Their self-titled EP was more of a replica of everything they admired. Although now I can thoroughly enjoy the album, during the time I can understand where it was misunderstood. Ska-punk wanted to be heard through the array of sounds yet got lost and was clearly the vision of Eric Stefani and his animated way of songwriting.

From going to the dentist, heard on “Ache,” to bad romances heard in “Paulina” and “Sad for me,” there was no real grip of unity between the directions of the band’s sound. The album wasn’t a failure in the eyes of a No Doubt fan, where it produced great songs such as “Big City Train,” showcasing early stages of Gwen Stefani’s different vocal abilities, or “Sometimes,” displaying a serious side of the band.

Without rejection and E. Stefani slowly disconnecting himself from the band, No Doubt’s true colors wouldn’t be able to shine. Interscope didn’t want to play them, and local Los Angeles Station, KROQ noted that it would “take an act of God” to get them to be played on the radio.

The first track from Beacon Street, “Open the Gate” is a track that easily could be on Tragic Kingdom. It is a fast-paced song, full of energy, raw sound, gritty instrument builds, and G. Stefani’s scattered and controlled way of singing. One of the first songs that began to set the sound of the band as they started to perfect the art of blending the horns and punk side. It was also the only track on the album that had every member contribute in the writing process, and was a clear display of this perfect harmony between creative forces. In my opinion, it’s one of their best songs from that album.

There were still traits of E. Stefani’s voice left on the album though, but not as loud as their unsuccessful EP, such as “Blue in the Face,” “Squeal” and “Doghouse.” With a few catchy riffs, these songs were still rough drafts of separation from their earlier sound. “Blue in the Face,” started on the fence as a generic new-wave jangly tune, which progressed into an alternative rock song with great parts, including the break and the ending of the song.

There began to be a power shift in the music direction, and it was obvious who started to pull the reins more. “Total Hate 95’” which features Bradley Nowell from Sublime, was the upbeat ska-punk track that embodied what the band wanted to do all along, and made it enjoyable to listen. Besides showing the band’s versatility, this song in particular was slowly paving the wave for G. Stefani to not be seen as a “sappy little girl” that was heard on the first EP, but more into the rock-queen that was ready for the world to see.

Since Tragic Kingdom was released 7 months after Beacon Street, the majority of their songs on that album, in a sense, were leftovers from their sophomore album. As the story goes, G. Stefani and bassist, Tony Kanal’s 7-year relationship ended, and it was the inspiration behind the self-therapeutic song writing. It was no longer G. Stefani singing the songs of her older brother; it was now G. Stefani that had a say in the writing of her own experiences.

Early stages of the famous ballad “Don’t Speak,” were out which were not even close to the product we now know. It needed time and for The Beacon Street Collection’s success to prove that this was the direction of sound that the band needed to embark. Before the love blues of that song though, there was “Stricken.” A beautiful love song, with soft reggae drumming and guitar picking, trumpets, and controlled keys building up for G. Stefani’s emotional singing.

“Greener Pastures,” “By the Way,” and “Snakes,” were the only tracks from that album that didn’t have E. Stefani contribute in the song writing process. “Greener Pastures,” written by Kanal and G. Stefani, became a darker track, lyrically and musically. Another display of the power shift within the band, G. Stefani’s relatable songwriting abilities, and the slight quirkiness still heard. “By the way,” focused on a love being far away, and contained all those elements heard on Tragic Kingdom. “Snakes,” could be heard as the band’s f*** off song, with stabs here and there to a “corporate board.” G. Stefani’s high vibrato finally heard, and Tom Dumont’s influence of metal heard through his guitar solo, intertwined together for another track to properly showcase No Doubt’s true sound.

For without the frustration of rejection, life trials, and the faith that No Doubt held on to pursue and start their own record label in order to get their music out, none of the music after 1992 would ever have been heard. The Beacon Street Collection was the most honest piece from the band, and a risk that no one ever regretted. Starting simply as a self-release, the album ended up as being more. It contained the emotional aspects of G. Stefani that were relatable and a primary center of her writing, along with raw, loud rock, ska and reggae influences, embedded in their new wave delivery. It was all of their influences, refined, and no longer became tracks that sounded like a certain genre; they began to sound like No Doubt.

FDRMX Eyes: Inventions is a rock duo comprised of Mark T. Smith and Matthew Cooper. The band has released an animated music video titled “Springworlds,” which can be found on their follow-up, Maze of Woods. “Springworlds” was created by animator Dan W Jacobs.

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