Countless artists pour their hearts and souls into making the "next big record". A precious few sell millions, some have maintained a comfortably small fan base, and others never rise from obscurity. But all are susceptible to one possible dubious fate: The shelf of your local thrift store. These poor unwanted remnants of the past grace the shelves of your Goodwills, your Salvation Armys, your local mom & pop shop, waiting to be rediscovered... to be loved once again.

Over my years of thrift store scouring, I gradually began to notice certain discs and records that repeatedly reveal themselves on nearly every visit to any location. It left me wondering: Why are these select albums so often discarded, what led them to this point, and will the recognition and love for them ever be renewed once again? Now I can confidently answer YES. I bestow unto you, an appreciation for all discs left behind: "Thrift Store Albums."

Monday, September 8, 2014

No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom


There was a time when Ska was all the rage. Take fast-paced pop-punk, add horns and a reggae flair, and you start to get the idea of what the 90's evolution (sometimes known as the third-wave) of the American Ska movement was all about. Although popularized by the likes of Reel Big Fish and Goldfinger, the style didn't really hit mainstream airwaves all that much until No Doubt exploded onto the scene.

A six-piece outfit with a female singer, along with trumpet and trombone players, many must have wondered what exactly they were hearing when songs like "Don't Speak" started getting airplay. The bright, pop-oriented sound must have seemed especially out of place next to the grungy, guitar-heavy hit tracks of the time. Led by dynamic front-woman Gwen Stefani, the band had the creative prowess and infectious energy to break through any reservations audiences may have had about the genre.

"Sorry I'm not home right now, I'm walking in the Spiderwebs so leave a message and I'll call you back," Stephani sings in one of the several popular singles on their breakout record, Tragic Kingdom. Recorded over the course of several years an in 11 different studios, the album produced nearly as many singles as tracks. Another ear-catching hit, "Just a Girl", was a sarcastic take on female stereotypes, helping Stefani create her unique brand of pop-stardom. Her unmistakable vibrato is impressive from both a purely vocal standpoint, and as an accessory to her charismatic stage persona.

The album would go on to earn several Grammy nominations (remember when award shows actually seemed somewhat diverse?) and also found an audience with Canadian, European, and Australian fans, reaching the coveted "diamond" status in the U.S. (ten million album sales). No Doubt would tour for several years in support of the album's massive success, and then spent another several challenging years working on a follow-up album.

Unsurprisingly, Stefani would take her skills as a front-woman and launch into a more pop-oriented solo career. No Doubt would subsequently go on hiatus several times, with rumors that they will return again in the near future. Although the punk-ska genre became an increasingly fringe movement, Tragic Kingdom will always hold its place as one of the key albums that brought the style to the mainstream and further opened the doorway to what a hit band can be.

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