Album Reviews: Saturday Night Wrist by DeftonesIn 2003, it seemed like the sun may have been ready to set on Deftones. Much like Tool's Maynard James Keenan before him, Deftones frontman Chino Moreno had a more accessible "side project" (Team Sleep) that was garnering buzz, the band was clashing with other bands on the road, and reportedly clashing with themselves in and out of the studio. They released a disjointed self-titled record that sounded like a step or two backward, and then dropped off a lot of radars.
Saturday Night Wrist pulls the phoenix act, returning Deftones to the rarified air of 2000, when their darkly adventurous White Pony shot them out of the nu-metal ghetto. But they've continued from White Pony, not attempted to recycle its successful experiments. Longtime haters still won't be swayed, obviously, and fans who are wed strictly to the hungry aggression that characterized their earlier albums may be put off by the continued expansion into ambience, patience, and brooding, downtempo melodies. But hopefully fans who were just bummed out by the last record will give the new one enough time on the stereo to let its substantial hooks sink in.
Their bursts of fury are still convincing ("Rapture," "Rats!Rats!Rats!"), but nowhere near as provocative as their more nuanced tracks. They kick off with their lead single, "Hole in the Earth," which has a catchy chorus that sounds like a metal version of Coldplay. Moreno is one of the better vocalists in metal because of his malleability; he can be pinched and agitated, but also tuneful and soothing -- sometimes within the span of the same verse. This vocal unpredictability is a near-perfect companion for the ebb-and-flow of bombastic post-rockers like "Beware."
Deftones also earn points because they are one of the few metal bands that can downshift and write an effective make-out song for hard rockers. There is often a libidinous or romantic undercurrent, even if it's set against disturbing or tragic contexts ("Cherry Waves").
Then there's "Pink Cellphone," a strange, glitchy, polarizing electronic track that features a deadpan monologue about misplaced faith and anal sex from Giant Drag's Annie Hardy. The extended rant has been neutered on some versions, which is a pity because it's a one-of-a-kind litmus test and a big middle finger to the people who flunk it. - Adam McKibbin, The Red Alert
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