Its hard to put my finger on it but Return of Saturn seems to be just a little substandard when compared to other No Doubt CD's. Gwen Stefani is in fine voice and even her lyrics are such songs as Bathwater, Simple Life, Suspension Without Suspense, and Dark Blue are quite touching and heartfelt. The band is in fine form as they certainly rock pretty hard on some tracks and add some creative touches elsewhere.
However, I think the melodies of the some of the other tracks are not as memorable as Rock Steady or even the fine debut. I've played through this CD about five times now and I really cannot remember much about the melodies in such songs as Magic's In The Makeup, Marry Me, New, Home Now, and Too Late. The arrangements jog my memory a drop that there were some jazz touches on Marry Me as well as a fairly compelling riff on Too Late. However the slight drop off in the level of these melodies does make a difference.
Also, the tone of many of these songs is quite depressing. Don't get me wrong, Fleetwood Mac produced an entire record of heartbreaking tunes with Rumours. However, the songs on Rumours were very melody focused and even provided an inkling of hope. Just listen to Don't Stop. These Return of Saturn numbers seem to wallow in despair with little trace that anything will get better.
Don't get me wrong, Return of Saturn is a good CD. And No Doubt is one of the best things going in the contemporary music world today. However, it falls a little(not a lot) short of their best material.