It must have been dandy to be sixteen in 1996 when No Doubt, exploiting the infallible Rumours marketing strategy, unleashed airplay hit after hit from Tragic Kingdom, most notably “Don’t Speak,” the “Dreams” of my sister’s generation. Pop radio in early ’97 rested in an interzone as opaque and impenetrable as the one in which college radio resided during the Poppy Bush era before Kurt Cobain shook his golden locks: the boy bands were just passing Lou Pearlman’s height requirements; we were still months away from the ubiquity of “Fly,” “Semi-Charmed Life,” “MMMBop.” I got some fun figuring how many of the undergraduates I was about to teach for the first time had bought Brighten The Corners with their copies of Odelay at Sam Goody (none bought Toni Braxton’s “Un-Break My Heart”). A circuitous way of writing that apart from “A Simple Kind of Life” and “Hella Good” No Doubt didn’t move me. Even in their twenties the band sounded like cynics, a couple of albums away from an Eagles kind of rancidness. Gwen Stefani’s voice wasn’t lived in; she was trying too hard to have a good time. Planned evanescence is a joke anyway – on them.
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