Normally this space takes a look back at the week that was in the Orange County music scene, but the irresistible force of arguably the biggest OC band of all time playing four local shows in one week has compelled me to gaze into the not-so-distant future. It would be nice if I could say that I was into No Doubt way before anyone else. That I followed their career prior to “Just a Girl” and Gwen Stefani’s midriff invading the mainstream, and then abandoned them as they got all dub/synth poppy with Rock Steady later in life. But, sadly, that would be false.
Actually, I didn’t like them until way after it stopped being cool to like them. My first No Doubt album was 2000’s Return of Saturn, and I still don’t own any of their earlier records (blame FM-rock radio for killing about half of Tragic Kingdom and any interest I might have had in purchasing that album).
What’s weirder still is that when No Doubt broke big—1995 or 1996—I was a huge fan of the pop/punk/ska they were then known for. I listened to plenty of lesser acts doing the same thing: Less Than Jake, Goldfinger, Huntington Beach’s Reel Big Fish. I even enjoyed Save Ferris, another Orange County band who were practically No Doubt clones. Yet for some reason, I resisted the allure of Stefani, Tony Kanal, Tom Dumont and Adrian Young. They were just too wacky and mainstream, and though the music I was listening to wasn’t actually cooler, for now-inexplicable reasons, I successfully convinced myself that it was. (Plus, “Don’t Speak” was sappier than I had the patience for.)
But even though it was considered a flop after the intergalactic success of Tragic Kingdom, Return of Saturn appealed to me in a way their earlier material never did—right from the first single, “Ex-Girlfriend.” That song just seemed more immediate and more honest than anything I had heard from them before. “Simple Kind of Life” was similar in sappiness to “Don’t Speak,” but that was somehow now okay.
I first saw No Doubt live during their fall 2002 tour with Garbage and the Distillers. I vividly remember describing to a friend the thrill of watching Stefani cover “Call Me” with Shirley Manson and Brody Dalle, and then quickly realizing how ridiculous it must sound for a 19-year-old heterosexual male to gush over hearing a Blondie song.
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I even stuck with Stefani during her solo years, as hard as it is to defend much of Love Angel Music Baby and The Sweet Escape. As music director of Arizona State University’s radio station, I added songs such as “Rich Girl” into the rotation along with the likes of Interpol and Ted Leo. I got made fun of.
So, now living in No Doubt’s home county, I’m excited for the band’s re-forming and upcoming four (!) local shows, but for any longtime fans who’ll take a bathroom break during “Hella Good,” well, excuse me, misters, if I get into it along with the rest of their latter-day bandwagon fans.
No Doubt at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, 8800 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine, (949) 855-8096; www.livenation.com. With Paramore and the Sounds, Fri.-Sun., 7:15 p.m.; with Katy Perry and the Sounds, Tues., 7:15 p.m. $25-$90 (Sat. show sold out as of deadline). All ages.