Sunday with George: Deftones- Saturday Night Wrist

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Off the bat, please note, Deftones are NOT a nu-metal band.

Did Deftones have the misfortune of rising to popularity when a lot of those bands were somehow selling 5 to 10 million copies of albums called “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water”?

Yes, they did.

They’re cut from a completely different cloth though, owing much more to Cocteau Twins (who they’ve covered) The Cure (who they’ve also covered) Smashing Pumpkins (who lead singer Chino Moreno has performed with) and maybe Meshuggah, when guitarist Stephen Carpenter is allowed to indulge his more brutal riffing inclinations.

Yes, that’s a weird combination of influences, and Deftones are indeed, a weird band. As we know, the general music listening population, as the years have gone on, has little to no interest in being challenged. They want clear boundaries, and entities that are easily quantifiable.

That puts bands like Deftones in a pickle.

“Saturday Night Wrist” is the band’s fifth album, released in 2006.

Is it there best album?

Depends on the day of the week that you ask me.

Is it a tremendous tapestry of varied textures and musical ideas, painterly in its lyricism, and adventurous in it’s sequencing?

Through and through, yes.

Part of Deftones appeal is that they hop around a lot in terms of what they do. An instrumental here, a glitchy piece of electronic music there, and then something that’s just devastating, or effortless in it’s beauty.

For some, this is maddening, and it’s become evident to me over time that they may well be better at the whole shimmering dream-metal thing than they are at the just straight-ahead metal thing.

In any case, the album consists of 12 songs, ranging from career-best to satisfactory. There’s not a bad song in the bunch, and about half of them have found themselves on repeat for extended periods of time in my life.

The album’s first real standout arrives in the form of, “Cherry Waves”, certainly one of the most beautiful things the band has ever written. It’s notable for it’s elastic, almost bow-legged bassline, swagged-out drumming, and a strikingly ethereal vocal performance from Chino Moreno.

It’s a deeply textural piece of music. The guitars in the chorus are almost shy, tepidly poking their heads in and out of the mix. This makes the explosion of full-on shoegaze bliss found in the chorus all the more exhilarating and delightful.

There are dream-pop bands that would KILL to make a song this pretty. CHVRCHES probably spent any number of hours listening to it, looking to glean whatever they could.

“Xerxes” the album’s 7th song, is a continuation of the sonic precedent established in, “Cherry Waves.” I believe I read a review once that described the song as sounding like, “dubbed out dewdrops.” I don’t think I’m going to do any better than that, so I won’t try. Like “Cherry Waves”, the song has a feeling of longing about it. It’s a contemplative, if not cautious piece of music— a plea of sorts, one that’s earnest and intimate.

Two tracks later, we have, “Pink Cellphone”, an outright bizarre piece of music that succeeds brilliantly in spite of how strange it is. One part spoken word, one part glitch and sound collage electronica, it’s brilliantly produced, greatly benefitting from a headphone listening experience.

The two tracks that follow, “Combat”, and “Kimdracula” are most likely the two best barnburners on the album.

“Combat” is more often than not, an outright violent, and punishing piece of music. That said, its chorus is out of dream, and it contains a bridge that’s so gorgeous, I once went into my iTunes to isolate it, putting it on repeat for the better part of a couple of hours.

“Kimdracula” is a more straight-ahead piece of work, one that probably should have been the radio single, as opposed to the Serj-Tankian featuring “Mein” from earlier in the album. It main riff is an ear-candy delight. The only real unfortunate aspect of the music is the song’s relatively short length. When things are is this good, 3:14 is mercilessly short.

The album closes with, “Riviere”, a song that’s quiet and understated for the first 2/3 of the proceedings, before giving way to a really lush, and full-bodied finish. It’s an appropriate close to the album, meditation at the end of a tremendous artistic statement.

Deftones are due to release a new album before the year ends, and I’m anxiously awaiting what they do. Each album sees the band make tremendous leaps in growth, and more so than anything they’ve done, this album might be the best showcase for what it sounds like when they’re firing on all cylinders.

In any case, check it out, check it out!

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