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Deftones

Diamond Eyes

(Reprise; US: 4 May 2010; UK: 3 May 2010)

Ladies and Gentlemen, you are no doubt aware that my case today, Deftones, hit it big around 1997 with the likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit, a then-popular trend of rock ‘n’ roll dubbed by most critics as “nu-metal”. Often combining the grinding riffs of heavy metal with the rhythms of hip-hop, Deftones separated themselves from the pack by being a bit more emotional, their music more atmospheric, the vocals often sung in an ethereal manner instead of screamed.


But this band, for the last 15 years, has taken no chances, musically.


We can agree, class, that 2000’s White Pony is undoubtedly their best album because it combines all the elements that make Deftones unique and pairs them up with strong songwriting.


However, in the case of Diamond Eyes, there is no doubt in my diagnosis: apathetic songwriting.


Now, apathetic songwriting, or ApSo, can occur for many reasons. Usually, a band or artist is trying to fulfill a disagreeable contract with a label and, as the term “apathetic” suggests, they just don’t care what they release. Think of Prince. W-wait, don’t think of Prince. Prince hasn’t made music of any value since 1987. That is not a good example and I apologize, class.


ApSo sometimes happen when a band is riding their massive popularity, and is aware that the populace will purchase just about anything they release. Yet sometimes ApSo is inherent. The songwriters were simply never that good in the first place. You see, aspects of songwriting can be learned, but you cannot wholly learn how to be a good songwriter. It’s just like any other form of art.


The Deftones album Diamond Eyes features some surprisingly inspired moments. There are songs such as “Sextape” or “This Place is Death”, where the energy is palpable, and it seems like Deftones are giving their all. These moments, however, are few and far between.


Between sonic catastrophes such as “Prince” (this is in no way relevant to my earlier reference, so don’t take note of that) and “You’ve Seen the Butcher”, a feeling of just not caring permeates the music, spewing laziness out of your speakers and ultimately making you a less desirable person. Remember: the art we experience should make us more desirable.


Unfortunately, there is not much in the way of a cure or treatment for ApSo. My first act as Deftones’ doctor would be to prescribe a stimulant, such as generic amphetamine. This doesn’t—what do they say?—expand your mind, like LSD or marijuana (those drugs also result in ApSo, just a usually more entertaining form), but it will make you focused so you can be the best songwriter you can be. Secondly, I would recommend rigid psychoanalysis, to get to the root of the ApSo, and with time and work, hopefully turn it all around into ExSo, excellent songwriting.


This is not an unusual case by any means. The more you listen to music, and not just current music, the more you run across this condition. Some artists and bands make rigorous attempts and are, for lack of a better term, cured, but some are inflicted all their lives with the detriments of it, surprisingly even while obtaining highly successful careers on major labels.


This is my diagnosis and treatment plan. Deftones should feel free to seek a second opinion.

Rating:

Stephen Rowland has been founding and contributing to numerous underground film and music publications for the last 12 years. In addition to critiquing images and sounds, he makes no money as a regional historian and preservationist, co-authoring "Postcard History Series: Alameda" and "Images of America: Alameda," available from Arcadia Publishing.


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