Justify Your Shitty Taste: Deftones’ “Deftones”

I don’t have shitty taste.  You do.  (Clearly this is the Real Mature Edition of JYST.)

Well, maybe not you, but anyone who slags the self-titled Deftones record, that follow-up to your oh-so-darling White Pony, and instead reaches for next-in-the-queue Saturday Night Wrist…  Such a person truly exhibits taste that should be swimming with the latrine wildlife.  Not that I’m here to point nasty fingers at other Deftones recordings – I’m in love with most of the band’s lengthening catalog – but let’s straighten out our priorities.  Beginning to end, Deftones is a heated, satisfying set of (mostly) heavy songs that hang on to White Pony’s high sound quality while laying down the hard rock hammer.

Fact is, Deftones is the sound of a rock band making a rock record.  Pre-White Pony efforts also fell into this category.  For some reason, when the stars aligned and the Sacramento boys conjured forth “Digital Bath,” “Elite,” “Teenager,” “Knife Prty,” “Passenger,” “Change” and “Pink Maggit,” the band got labeled as something special (rightly so) and took on a ship-sinking load of hangers-on (disturbingly so).  Expectations were piled on, many from outside the band’s comfortable circles, and Deftones were projected to be the next band tasked with saving rock music from itself.  (This was a big thing around 2000 – Radiohead had just confused the shit out of everybody by not really following OK Computer with anything similar.)

Rock music does not require salvation, from itself or any other agent.  There is good rock and there is bad rock and there is middling rock.  There always has been and there always will be.  Rock music of any quality results from some passionate people grabbing some amplified stringed equipment and playing whatever boils inside them.  It does not conform to your sense of progress or transcendence.  The Deftones album is full of extremely good rock.  Deftones were never an art rock band.  Parts of White Pony might have misled you, but the band’s 2003 record should remind you to pump your fucking fist.

Every song on Deftones hurls a riff or a series of dynamic moments that add to the overall impact.  “Hexagram” steeps itself in dense verses and that lashing anti-chorus.  “Needles and Pins” is full of genuine head-noddery.  “Minerva” crunches through the perfect 21st century power ballad.  “When Girls Telephone Boys” and “Bloody Cape” succeed by dialing up the violence.  “Lucky You” and “Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event” pull the opposite stunt, emoting quiet dread and hesitant hope in subtly alien ways.  “Moana” is no “Pink Maggit,” but it holds down its final position admirably, especially considering the album it closes – anything eschewing overt heaviness would miss the mark.

Deftones is not White PonyWhite Pony is White Pony.  (Aren’t you glad we’re here to straighten out the confusing parts?)  Deftones might be a Tim Taylor/more power/“rrg-rrg” approach to this music, but it truly succeeds in adding more power to the formula and bringing a fresh take to a new message from a vital band.  Some fans of White Pony were/are unwilling to let Deftones flat-out rock.  Don’t be one of them.  Embrace all sides of the ‘tones.  We’re due for a new album soon, as recent music news outlets have suggested.  Whether or not it turns out to be the album you want from them, it’s guaranteed to be the album they intend you to hear.