Dekotora, a Japanese trucker subculture that painstakingly converts big rigs into art via a lights, murals, and insanely elaborate interiors, is a welcome jumping-off point for No Doubt’s reunion video. First documented in the ’70s movies Truck Guys, these drivers take something inherently commercial and spend years (and fortunes) to make it both wildly entertaining and aesthetically rich. That’s what No Doubt and Gwen Stefani, at their best, have done since breaking out with 1995’s Tragic Kingdom, coloring their Blondie-platinum pop-rock with shades of ska, reggae, synth-pop, hip-hop, and, yes, Japanese subcultures, specifically the fashions of Harajuku.
“Settle Down,” the dancehall-inflected six-minute advance single from No Doubt’s first album in 11 years, strikes a natural-sounding and effective balance between picking up where the Southern California group left off — back when Napster had just merged with Rhapsody! — and competing in the current media moment’s relative Wild West, where Santigold, M.I.A., and Rihanna can all thrive in their own ways. The video, which premiered last night, extends this precise equipoise, as the various No Doubt members each drive their own Dekotora-decked-out trucks (the lyric “Do you copy?” makes more sense when pronounced into a CB radio) to what turns out to be a fantastic outdoor dance party. Stefani shows her Harajuku obsession isn’t her only similarity to clear spiritual heir Nicki Minaj, putting on lipgloss and popping some crazy eyes at the camera that could start an epic staring contest with a certain Roman Zolanski.
Directed by Sophie Muller, who has previously helmed some of the band’s best videos, the well-executed clip feels like a homecoming of sorts, as the band members embrace each other, and Stefani struts around in those kinds of tank tops she once made her signature. But it also, in a way that Stefani’s most recent solo album — and, frankly, most new music by ’90s standbys — does not, looks remarkably of the moment. The kids in Cali still say “hella,” right? Any settling down here is done gracefully, and, like those trucks, shows years of craft and forethought.
Push and Shove is due out on September 25 via Interscope; No Doubt will play “Settle Down” on Sunday at the 2012 Teen Choice Awards.