The Paly Voice

No Doubt's "Tragic Kingdom" still offers essence of ska

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With awesome vocals from Gwen Stefani, Tragic Kingdom has an amazing ska sound, which makes it No Doubt’s best album and possibly one of the best albums ever produced. Tragic Kingdom (1995), No Doubt’s second CD, captures the nature of ska through fun lyrics, superb vocals and remarkable music.

The CD has many mood and lyric changes throughout; it has the almost melancholy sound in "Don’t Speak," with lyrics such as "I really feel I’m losing my best friend/I can’t believe This could be the end."

Or the album has high energy songs like "Just a Girl" with the lyrics "Take this pink ribbon off my eyes/I’m exposed/And it’s no big surprise" and "You’ve had your little backyard/Protected by big walls/You didn’t dare look over/’Cause you’ve been too small" from the song "Sixteen."

The well known "Spiderwebs" never gets old with fun lyrics such as "Sorry I’m not home right now I’m walking into spiderwebs/So leave a message And I’ll call you back."

The song entitled, "Tragic Kingdom" has lyrics with deeper meaning: "They pay homage to a king/Whose dreams are buried/In their minds/His tears are frozen stiff/Icicles drip from his eyes/Welcome to the tragic Kingdom."

Whatever kind of song, the lyrics are skillfully written and fun to listen to. Because the songs represent many moods, the album never becomes monotonous and dull, but grabs the listeners attention.

Songs like "Just a Girl", "Different People", "Don’t Speak", and "Tragic Kingdom" show off Gwen Stefani’s amazing vocals. She has a strong and engaging voice that is never whiny or annoying. There are also songs such as "Sixteen" and "End it on This" that display Tom Dumont and Tony Kanal’s talent on the guitar and bass. The music, like the lyrics, is transformed into a more pop sound in "Sunday Morning" and back to an original ska sound in "Excuse me Mr."

No Doubt has been an amazing band for the past 16 years, but not all of their albums are as strong as this. In their later CDs, Return of Saturn (2000) and Rock Steady (2001), their sound became more manufactured and pop-like, weakening their original appeal. This CD is clearly No Doubt’s best because it maintains the pure essence of the ska sound.

Compared to other ska artists No Doubt’s Tragic
Kingdom is innovative because it also weaves in sounds of reggae and punk. Also No Doubt is one of the few ska bands with a female lead singer, who gives more attention to the lyrics than most ska bands, where the instrumentalists are more dominant.

Thus, No Doubt has created a cross-over ska sound, that makes them unique.

Overall Tragic Kingdom is an excellent CD. For anyone who is tired of the dull pop scene, it is worth it to go back to this 1995 album for its pure ska sound, wonderful vocals and great lyrics.

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