No Doubt–Sunday Morning

It’s strange to think that a band like No Doubt could have become so instantly iconic and wildly popular after major label breakthrough Tragic Kingdom.  But even stranger is that, despite their lead singer being one of the enduring staples of pop radio for the past two decades, no one really seems to listen to them.  Long before Gwen Stefani was a perfectly primped radio princess, she was seemingly fully formed as a rock star and confident in her uniqueness, unafraid to look and sound ugly.  And before any release by the band was pre-annointed a hit by the record industry, there were five kids jamming in their garage, churning out ska-inspired So-Cal tunes that actually meant something to their peers.  It’s almost impossible to think of the Stefani of today getting angry, political or swept away by the music (or being involved in any sort of outsider movement at all), but that’s exactly what happened on Tragic Kingdom.  The album is a highly specific snapshot of the period it was released, but many of the songs remain hugely compelling.  While not a massive hit like Spiderwebs, Don’t Speak or Just a Girl, Sunday Morning plays to all the strengths of the band: Stefani’s strong, beguiling vocals; Adrian Young’s precise drumming; and the smooth, steady ska influence of Tony Kanal and Tom Dumont.  The track is frankly all over the place, drawing on surf rock, switching from reggae to rock beats, throwing in some whiny backup vocals and featuring a sprechgesang section.  Top it off with an empowering female viewpoint that predates the girl power movement so associated with The Spice Girls and you have a strange and wonderful piece of 90s history that feels foreign but exciting.

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