Review Summary: The highly antidipated release from the Sacto group lives up to the expectations of their fans, even in the face of near disbandonment.
It was an album almost destined not to happen. Problems with production. Tension amongst band members. The singer abandoning them for lenghtly periods to work on his side project. The end result, if their would even be one, should by all standards be a poorly-slapped together record sure to be the band's last. This is how Saturday Night Wrist was most effective in dealing a slap to critics and doubtful fans alike.
Chino Moreno- Vocals & guitar
Frank Delagno- Keyboards and turntables
Abe Cunningham- Drums
Chi Cheng- Bass
Stephen Carpenter- Strings
Everything about the album seemed not to be taken seriously, right down to the title. According to a statement released by drummer Abe Cunningham, a fan arbitrarily declared that the new album would be called Saturday Night Wrist and posted it online. The band saw the name, liked it, and then used it. In reality, the title accurately reflects the mood given off by much of the album. It reffers to a loss of feeling in someone's arm after having too many drinks and sleeping on it the wrong way. This album, like its title, has a calm, soothing numbness with harsh elements of the night before and still enough humour not to take itself too seriously.
How does it compare to past releases? The most noticeable difference at first is the change in dynamics across many of the tracks. While previous albums were notably bipolar, switching from soft ambience-laden lullabies to vocal shredding hailstorms at an almost chaffing rate, the songs on the new album each show their lighter and darker sides and the full versitility of the Deftones sound. That being said, it's closest in comparison to 2000's epic White Pony, with some Around The Fur era guitars and an ever growing presence of DJ Frank Delango, particularily on keyboards in tracks such as Rapture and Xerces.
One of the best examples of this fine balance can be found in the opener and first single, Hole In The Earth
. Opening with electronic noise and erupting into Carpenter's driving guitar, the song balances soothing vocals from Chino with solid and hard instrumentals from the rest of the band. The riff near the end is particularily moshworthy. Defenitly a wise choice for a leading single. This is followed by Rapture
, a heavier song with hasher vocals from Chino and a more driving riff from Stephen. The keyboards add a nice dimension to the chorus. Not a standout song, but its harsh impact tof this song is more than welcome to help kickstart the album.
This is followed by what is quickly becoming a fan favourite, the dark and sinister Beware
. The song has slow, repetative verses slightly reminisent of Aerosmith's 'Dream On' that gives away into a beautiful and catchy chorus that sees Chino hitting some impressive high notes. The lyrics are a little strange ("Do you like the way the water tastes?"), but do not really take away from the song. Again, it is rounded out by another exellent pounding riff from the guitar that lasts almost a minute. The subtle swamp noises add a nice atmosphere as well.
Next is the projected future single, Cherry Waves
. This is a softer, love-ballad typetrack with brilliant drumming and basswork. Chino croons to a loved one through the chorus, asking his lover that if they were in a boat at sea and he fell over, would she swim down after him? The digital effects give it almost an Eastern feel. An elegant and enjoyable track. Then we have Mein
, with a fast flowing instrumental section and an oddly-spaced chorus. The track doesn't seem particularily notable until the bridge, in which Serj Tankian makes a guest appearance that breathes life back into the track. His monotone baritone contrasts nicely with Chino's high tenor. The drumming alone is enough to carry the track, and after a few listens can be quite likeable.
Originally simply titled 'Intermission', U,U,D,D,L,R,L,R,A,B,Select,Start
is so much more. An instrumental in which all members shine equally, the track is by no means to be considered filler and needs to be heard to be fully appreciated. Almost post-rock, it marks the new territory that the Deftones feel comfortable venturing into.
is much like Cherry Waves, although the chorus is catchier and delivers more power through the vocals and guitar chords. This song sounds highly Team Sleep influenced and probably doesn't sit well with metal-driven Carpenter, but it is more than a worthy addition to the album and threatens to stay in your head for hours.
is a schizophrenic masterpiece. The song was written about Frances Farmer; anyone familiar with her unique history will appreciate the title and the desperate sounding lyrics ("Decide. is this it?", "I won't say nothing, not a f***ing thing"). The vocals are Chino's harshest to date, although the instruments do not convey as much vitriol as some past Deftones numbers. In fact, the chorus is quite smooth, wherein lIies the real majesty of the song: it's transitions from chorus to verses. Then the bridge, which is a fantastic breakout into chugging guitar and a tom riff that rocks my socks.
And now, for something completely different; Pink Cellphone
, probably the most controversial Deftones track to hit the shelves. It barely constitutes a Deftones song, being largely composed of guest vocalist Annie Hardy speaking over a hip-hop beat, with Chino barely complementing her spoken lyrics. This isn't a bad track. It isn't even that out of place on the album's tracklist. But it's just not Deftones. I will not differ with any fan who cannot stand this track.
And just when you think it ends.... Annie Hardy comes back in with a string of profane statements not repeatable on this or any other website. Let's just say it ends with "...and that's why British people have bad teeth. Amen". Sigh. Let's move on.
The best thing about the previous track is the way that it's sparcity continues into the first minute of Combat
. We hear over a minute of radio transmissions in the background, before some excellent snare-work brings us into one of the most aggresive and overshadowing riffs in the Tones' repetoire. Seriously, everything about this song rocks. It strikes me as being anti-war, with Chino's screaming of "Whose side are you on?" likely relating to the current Iraq war controversy. Kimdracula
, originally titled 'The Earth' (and likely changed to avoid confusion with the opener) is an underrated and often unappreciated number. A catchy and repeated guitar hook pulls you through the song, which features some exellent high vocal distortion and an overall uneasy, spacy feeling. The album's closer, Riviere
, was the last track to really grow on me. The softest track on the album, or so the clean guitar at the beginning would suggest. The track is light for almost two minutes until the drums and bass enter. It builds up through the bridge and simmers back down to close the album on a graceful note on light guitar strumming.
While it may not quite live up to the regard of its predecessor White Pony, this album brings the band back to the elevated heights that it experienced then, while overcoming any of the shortcomings of 2003's self titled release. The band seems at last fully comfortable in their self-made sound, and have achieved an equilibrium that can no longer be simply classified as Nu-metal or any other genre of music. A must-have for any Deftones fan, and recommended to anyone looking to get into the band. Lets hope that any future squables can be put aside and that we will see another Deftones album before their career is out.
Hole In The Earth