B-Sides and Rarities
here are two crucial points that you must never lose sight of when considering The Deftones’ history and musical ability: the first is that, yes, they are a Nü-Metal band writing songs veritably dedicated to the adolescent/teenage experience and the second is that they are quintessential performance artists. The former point has often been used as a riposte to those of us who are unashamed to claim that Chino Moreno et al are brilliant, sometimes transcendent musicians; to say that the inherently jejune subject matter tarnishes their work. The second point is indisputable and evidenced by the DVD portion of B-Sides and Rarities. It displays the band’s intense chemistry through their videos and the interspersed live footage in addition to visually marking the substantive changes from Adrenaline to their eponymous fourth album.
What essentially elevates this greatest hits collection is the same thing that typifies the band’s career: their ability to drastically alter their sound through minor yet fundamental adjustments. Each of these B-sides and alternates replicates a period in their career, so while the songs themselves may be new, they perfectly encapsulate each album of the band’s catalogue as though they were overarching epochs. Say what you will about them being Cure-fixated Korn acolytes, this sort of presentation merits a good word for at the very least truly representing the musicians we know while abstaining from the inherent redundancy of a greatest hits album. None of the songs are original—they are either covers or retooled in some way—but neither are they merely a haphazard assemblage of leftovers meant to wring out a few more bucks from some of their more obsequious fans.
Now, the extent to which this novel idea works is a somewhat mixed matter. On certain songs they manage to channel a hidden fury of the original, the most obvious example being their cover of Helmet’s “Sinatra.” When the song first came out in 1991, dropped-D tuning was the new shit. Yet Stephen Carpenter and Chi Cheng only make a minor alteration by letting their combined chords linger rather than truncating them as the original had done, and Chino Moreno offers the vocals with greater inflection since, heavy as he was, Page Hamilton sounded way too much like Henry Rollins on that track. On others they manage to intelligently elicit a fury that wasn’t discovered at all in the original—their cover of Cocteau Twins’ “Wax and Wane”—yet understand when a song shouldn’t be tampered with too drastically—Sade’s “No Ordinary Love.”
But a few of their entries are dubious while others simply don’t work at all. Their cover of Lynard Skynard’s “Simple Man” sounds limp since Carpenter never unleashes the riptide guitar and his solo sounds entirely aberrant. “Black Moon” is simply awful; Moreno is reduced to foggy ambience while B Real’s raps turn it into an unimaginative Black Sunday B-side. Furthermore, the band proves ill-equipped to transfer The Smiths’ “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” and The Cure’s “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep,” and the acoustic and alternative renditions of “Teenager” and “Digital Bath” are unimpressive compared to the White Pony originals while the acoustic version of arguably their biggest hit, “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away),” is of questionable execution. In fact, the album is a little remarkable for what it doesn’t include as it is for what it does. Their cover of Depeche Mode’s “To Have and to Hold” would have been a more fitting synth-pop encomium rather than Duran Duran’s “The Chauffer” and “Lovers,” from their Hexagram EP, is unfortunately absent.
But B-Sides and Rarities is an overall resounding effort by perhaps the smartest members of the now moribund Nü-Metal genre. If anything it’s a fulfilling detail of their history and a fine taxonomy of the influences buried within each album. And if the execution isn’t always the best, the facets of the chosen subject upon which they fix their talents determines the value of their work. What The Deftones have done for four albums is take the mundane and amplify its importance, to show that we are indeed affected by the moments we consider unimportant.
Reviewed by: Ayo Jegede
Reviewed on: 2005-10-18