Few people could have predicted that the gawky ska fiends in No Doubt would have transcended their skanking roots and emerged as polished magazine pinups, carrying the torch of such fellow SoCal new-wave faves as Oingo Boingo and the Go-Go's. Yet the ultramagnetic sheen of Gwen Stefani's pouting vocals and art-school-nerd-next-door persona, coupled with her bandmates' genial goofiness and musical proficiency, has kept the band in Top 40 shape since 1995's post-grunge pop landmark Tragic Kingdom. Stefani recently promised Entertainment Weekly that their summer tour will focus on songs culled from last year's tour de force The Singles 1992-2003, so count on tons of feisty feminism ("Just a Girl"), reggae riffing ("Hey Baby"), painfully introspective ballads ("Don't Speak," "Simple Kind of Life"), and, of course, snappy synth romps ("Hella Good," their cover of Talk Talk's "It's My Life").
The court jesters in Blink-182 also rendezvoused with their inner new-wavers on their self-titled 2003 album. "Asthenia" is peppered with handclaps and ringing, retro-flavored chords, while skinny-tie synths and layered harmonies dot the beach-blanket pop-punk of "Always." Heck, bassist Mark Hoppus even sported some serious Robert Smith bedhead action while performing "Down" on Letterman a few weeks ago -- obviously in tribute to the Cure vocalist, who guest-starred on "All of This." Like No Doubt, however, Blink's musical evolution hasn't equaled a drop in sonic quality. If anything, its drum loops ("Feeling This"), piano-laced punk ("Stockholm Syndrome"), and spooky spoken-word/percussion interludes ("Violence") have made aggressive numbers like "Obvious" and "Easy Target" -- as well as TRL-friendly fare like "I Miss You" -- sound (gasp!) mature.
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