The Maid With The Flaxen Hair
Paul Ess. | Holywell, N.Wales,UK. | 07/15/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The lithe machine-woman that is Gwen Stefani is a strange concoction: if you take away the massed slobber-factor 9 which the poor woman inevitably invokes every time she exhales, it then becomes interesting to sift through what's left.
She's not a big singer; she can carry a tune in a limited bucket but she's nowhere close to Bush, Bassey or even Banshee.
She can write a choice lyric occasionally, and luckily knows when a chord-change or counter-melody is effective, and that's basically her. Shouts of 'star quality' and 'charisma' don't qualify without the lush strawberry image - and she wouldn't receive either if she looked like Peter Andre.
'Rocksteady' achieves pleasantness despite reservations. Purely on song terms, it wins by a leg: the sub-Trojan ballad 'Underneath It All' curls up at your feet after swirling fetchingly around your senses, and the Christmassy 'Running' allows GS unexpected vulnerability far beyond the rattling collection tins of similar angst-maidens, playing on the gullible wallets of lustily sympathetic daddy-figures.
All-in-all, 'Rocksteady' is a success, while ultimately operating light-years away from any sort of great-album status. Gwen is good, but she should stick with what she knows - and that means knocking her largely abysmal solo career on the head for a start.
Stefani without the ogling and the drooling isn't much fun to be honest; you wouldn't rush to something even as superb as 'Early Winter' without at the very least the promise of those excellent legs completely dominating the video, or those proficiently pouting lips redefining glossy feminine redness in her 'live' MTV appearances.
It's quite ridiculous to attach any kind of artistic seriousness or aesthetic longevity to her; in any context, she can't be considered anything other than ornately transient.
'Rocksteady' is fun and frolics, while you search for the true loves of your life."