Saturday Night Wrist
he task of properly assessing the Deftones is a treacherous one. Although they’ve released four albums and an odds-and-sods collection over the last decade, it’s impossible to avoid the shit-stinking pop-cult baggage they carry with them. Remember: these are the guys that helped bring you nu-metal and rap rock.
That assessment is complicated further by the fact that the Deftones never really sucked quite as much as their red-capped and/or nappy headed compatriots. They never wallowed as disconsolately as Korn, pounded their chests with jock b-boy posturing like Limp Bizkit, or polished their formula to the mechanically palatable sheen of Linkin Park. Deftones turned a deaf ear to the big hook chorus, and have the SoundScan numbers to prove it.
But if you can’t throw on the snob muffs and just ignore Sacto’s finest, a new question emerges, how much should you pay attention? In consideration of their new album, Saturday Night Wrist, and their precarious placement at the artistic end of a decidedly un-artistic genre, the answer is…well…somewhat. Following more from the heavily atmospheric and post-rock inflected White Pony than their more recent self-titled alt metal thrasher, Saturday Night Wrist makes a reasonable argument for a pretty OK band. Sold yet?
On the one hand, the album contains elements that make the Deftones easy to cast aside. There are snarling whispers over jaggedly rhythmic chugga chuggas (“Rapture,” “Rats!Rats!Rats!”) that make you wanna break something, coupled with just as many sentimental moments of ecstatic revelation (“Combat,” “Cherry Waves”) that (with a Christly touch-up) explain the success of P.O.D. And that’s without mentioning the pointlessly potty-mouthed sampling of “Pink Cellphone.”
On the other hand, the album’s guitars are layered thickly and with thoughtful expertise. In the context of a resurgent interest in the sonically overlapping realms of shoegazer and stoner rock, numbers like “Beware” and the formulaic yet sparsely beautiful “Xerces” cast the band in the flattering light of the forerunner. When the Deftones are successful, they seem to slow down time, expanding on floating moments of doubt and mystery. When they’re not busy getting bogged down in all those mini-moments, dragging the album through dread patches of sluggishness that is.
Still, their role as a commercial radio gateway band is commendable. In a mass medium dominated by post-pop-punk bands, nu-metal’s ninth and tenth iterations, and indie-styled fashion dorks, the Deftones appear mature, sophisticated, and understated. Just as they borrowed from their melancholic 1980’s heroes The Cure and The Smiths, today the Deftones find themselves in the unlikely position of the radio band that’s OK to borrow from. They’re not—and never will be—a connoisseur’s band, but for suburban middle school kids starting to get tired of their generation’s version of the same old radio crap, the Deftones point the way to intriguing alternatives. Whether those kids realize it or not is a different matter.
Reviewed by: Sam Roudman
Reviewed on: 2006-11-03