Review Summary: Deftones are no one-trick pony.
As if it had not already been said - White Pony is two-thirds truth to the rumour and one-third hype. From the olden days to the humble present, it seems like Deftones have been called everything from A to Z. They’ve been extravagantly deemed the ‘Radiohead of Metal’, naively named the ‘saviours of rock’ and some still retain that the band tread along the lines of a ‘one-trick pony’ (pardon the pun). While music is such an opinionative medium, it can’t be argued in analysis of their polarizing discography that Deftones have evolved; but perhaps not in the manner that the majority of fans perceive to be ‘musical evolution’ – we, as fans, have seen them lurch back towards their roots one minute, only to jump head first into stylistic pandemonium the next. In an almost Thrice-like manner, we’ve almost come to expect the unexpected.
In the middle of this amalgam of music styles, aesthetics and atmospheres, their stands a distinctive personality in the Deftones camp called ‘White Pony’. The White Pony is no ordinary Pony, you see – its parents came from completely different breeders, were fed completely different types of food and lived in opposing climate types. Yet, in a freak occurrence of nature, the consummation of two horses has produced an incredible creature nobody could have foreseen. From the Pony’s birth, ‘Feiticeira’ grabs the listener by the arms and tells her to ‘close your eyes and ***ing listen’. Perhaps not in the same abrasive way as ‘Around The Fur’ or ‘Adrenaline’, but in a more contrasting way. The track is delicate in a way, and bludgeoning in the same. It is the ultimate dichotomy; a juxtaposition of moods, atmospheres and everything else the Deftones have ever stood for. ‘Elite’ is a furious, slamming affair, carried continuously forward by driving guitar riffs and scathing lyrical content that ever angsty teenager would relate to somewhere along the way.
Forgive the Spaghetti-Western esque openings of ‘RX Queen’ and you’ll soon find yourself staring the pony in the face as she telepathically transmits audio waves of ‘Knife Prty’ into your head. As soon as the verse hits in, you can almost witness with your own ears the conflict that would have struck the Moreno/Carpenter partnership as the track unfolded. It comes off as exactly what it is: Moreno’s The Smiths worship coupled with Carpenter’s metalhead tendencies in an almost symbiotic, unnatural bond, creating something both beautiful and brooding in the process. ‘Passenger’ and ‘Change (In The House Of Flies)’ serve within the album as absolute focal points when taking the Deftones’ discography apart. Maynard James Keenan’s guest appearance on the former absolutely makes the track, and the latter remains one of the best tracks the band have recorded. It truly is a shame for filler tracks like ‘Teenager’ and ‘Street Carp’. Carpenter would have cringed and writhed upon hearing the former for the first time, likely allowing it on the record in the absence of worthwhile material and the energy to implement it. ‘Street Carp’ is surely nothing more than a faltering grab at radio play, and serves as nothing more, nothing less. ‘Pink Maggit’ too, is an awkward, forced affair that goes nowhere and does nothing, and was frankly more enjoyable in the form of ‘Back To School’.
So what does ‘White Pony’ do, if anything? It is no ‘one-trick pony’. If anything, the record serves as the absolute moment of clarity within the band’s career, when ironically, confusion was at its most conflicting between the principle songwriters. Stylistically, it represents a time when the band were unparalleled in terms of radio-friendly innovation. They transcend genres, and if that meant tears were lost along the way on the part of Moreno and Carpenter, then they were tears well spent.