Deftones Discography Part 5: Saturday Night Wrist

One of my favorite bands, the Sacramento-based Deftones, released their sixth full-length album, Diamond Eyes, on May 4. In light of this, I am going back, re-listening to, and analyzing their previous albums, along with the new disc, in order to gain a perspective of the band’s past and their future.

Saturday Night Wrist by Deftones (2006, Maverick)

It’s clear from the start of Saturday Night Wrist that Deftones read the writing on the wall.  Their previous effort was a commercial flop and certainly not a fan favorite.  And while the disc wasn’t a disaster by any spark of the imagination, it definitely was hit-or-miss compared to the rest of the band’s catalog.  Chalk it up to growing pains; on SNW, the group clearly has their shit together.

The A-game is evident from the first bang-bang-bang-bang of the lead single and first track “Hole In the Earth.”  It’s good to see the boys up to their old tricks again, mixing the anthemic chorus guitar crunches with confident singing from frontman Chino Moreno.

But it’s evident that Moreno will try getting in the red this time around again.  His guttural screaming explodes on the following track “Rapture.”  Like their previous self-titled disc, the group is toying with a different style – nu-metal has been long gone at this point, and the old raps have been traded for a mix of sometimes straight metal, sometimes ethereal, yet direct, soundscapes.

The difference, however, is the songwriting.  The band’s maturation continues, and the experimentation from the self-titled album of three years before has transformed into a master course.  The group has shoegaze, and they have head-bangers, but now Deftones have perfected both to a level where they can mix and match.  Track 3, “Beware,” is the clear example; Moreno is able to layer and dub his vocals one-part screech and one-part croon, similar to older material like “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away).”  Listen all the way to the end and you’ll hear the rest of the band on a bi-polar trip as well, waiting in the background to erupt for the final minute of the song.

The best way to describe an album like SNW is to think Deftones and take out the weak choruses.  Structure is key here – the group has huddled and taken the sound they were trying to hone and, well, they’ve honed the hell out of it.  While the slow tracks felt empty and somewhat aimless on Deftones, here they swagger with pride (see the amazing refrains in “Cherry Waves,” “Xerces,” and “Kimdracula”).

Like the album before, Deftones try an electro-based, Team Sleep-influenced track, but even here, the results are a major improvement.  “Pink Cellphone” is a creepy sex jam, a Moreno howl and merry-go-round synth line revolving around Annie Hardy’s toy-microphone tangent about anal sex.  At times, it’s disturbing, funky, and erotic all at once.

Overall, Saturday Night Wrist is a step above.  The group has taken the texture of Deftones and added focus, and the results are spellbinding.  The music on SNW is ridiculously good, and it presents promise for a band that just continues to amaze and leap above and beyond the mundane efforts of its peers.

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