Pros: "Change (In the House of Flies)". "Passenger". "Digital Bath"...Chino's voice...
Cons: Sometimes experimenting can go wrong...slightly inconsistent... I'm not into Chino's rapping.
You're all alone in the house, halfway asleep on the couch, listening to one of those SIRIUS Radio channels on Satellite. Drifting in and out of a somewhat conscious state, you suddenly hear a sinister voice crooning, "My knife...it's sharp..."
Don't panic. It's only the Deftones. An experimental rock band with one of its genre's most wonderful vocalists, rest assured that they come not to harm you, but only to entertain you with their song "Knife Prty" (yes, prty). Or so we think.
Chino Moreno - vocals/guitar
Abe Cunningham - drums
Chi Cheng - bass
Frank Delgado - turntables
Stephen Carpenter - strings
White Pony, White Pony, White Pony...you never cease to confuse me, dear. Oh, man. So in all honesty, I've been freakishly obsessed with the song "Change (In the House of Flies)" for years. Literally, years. Procrastination is an ugly thing, or maybe it was just always a disguised form of uncertainty about whether or not the Deftones' 2000 release White Pony would be worth getting in its entirety or not. The verdict's a bit fuzzy. I find myself changing my mind about it every now and then. But you know, it's just...hmm.
So about "Change (In the House of Flies)". Ask me, and I'll tell you with no hesitation that this song is nothing short of a masterpiece. I can't get sick of it. It is absolutely haunting and eerie. Beginning distantly, a fizzy, climactic beat guides us to Chino Moreno's whispery, crackly voice. "I watched you change...into a fly...I looked away...you were on fire." Is he weeping and regretful or is he bitter and hateful toward this person who transformed into a completely different person? Well, throughout the five minutes of the song, the listener isn't 100% sure. Given the line "It's like you never had wings," one is led to believe that this song is really pinpointing the fact that this was a person who Chino once greatly admired. Whatever the case, it's five minutes spewing with emotion. Chino does this cool slooooooow thing with his voice (that's ridiculously obvious to anyone who's even remotely familiar with the band), and seriously, it'll send shivers down your spine. "Digital Bath" is another immediate stand-out, with nearly entrancing, ethereal music. Chino does some more vocal gymnastics, reaching an eyebrow-raising high range when he wails, "Tonight, I feel LIIIIIKE...MOOOOOORE!" The first story I heard was that Chino wrote this about the birth of one of his sons. I suppose that would make sense with the whole "New life breakaway / the cord breakaway" bits. But! It's actually about an, um, "fantasy" that he had about, ah, electrocuting a chick in the bathtub after seducing her. So thumbs up for it being lyrically interesting, and fifty billion thumbs up for it rocking so much.
Speaking of that r-o-c-k word, "Elite", anyone?!! Make sure you're sitting down for this one. Nonstop, piercing screams are combined with heavy guitar work and perfect drumming (it is all about Abe Cunningham, my friends - that guy rules). This song practically has the effect of pressing you against the wall like a pancake and keeping you there the entire time. Steer clear of it if you're the least bit squeamish about raw screams. But, uh...in that case, you probably wouldn't even be considering anything by the Deftones. Don't we all know how Chino loves toying with his voice? The lyric-obsessed fool in you will wanna know what Chino's saying, so flip open your little booklet, and yay! It's even lyrically awesome. "You like attention," Chino accuses. "It's proof to you you're alive!" So this song has everything going for it, and it is immediately followed by the captivating, slow "Rx Queen". Chino's voice is once again toned down to that mere crackly whisper. Oh, and...interesting... lyrics here. "I see a red light in June, and I hear crying," Chino mutters. "You turn newborn-baby-blue...now we're all the virus."
Okay, can things really go wrong if Tool/A Perfect Circle vocalist Maynard James Keenan is involved? (Wait, on second thought, maybe I shouldn't answer that - I just remembered eMOTIVe...hmm...) But, yeah - for the most part, anything that guy touches turns to gold. In this case, Maynard lends that warbly, trembly voice of his to one of White Pony's absolute stand-out tracks, "Passenger". Even if you didn't listen to the lyrics, it just feels like a "driving song". Does that make sense? Maynard and Chino's voices alternate, and it is goooood. The dynamic chorus speeds things up a bit, with Maynard taking over: "ROLL the WINdow down / this COOL night AIR is cuuuuurious!" he demands, to later whisper "Mmmmmmm, I'm your passen-GER!" This song seriously seeps into your mind, and I'll just warn you that it's crazily addictive and WILL get stuck in your head for hours at a time.
So, the great moments of White Pony are really great. Unfortunately, the weak moments are reeeally weak. For instance - "Back to School (Mini Maggit)". Chino can sing with the best of 'em. Chino can scream so well and so passionately that it will flood your entire body in goosebumps. Chino cannot rap. Sounding like a much worse version of Josey Scott of Saliva, Chino's just...trying too hard here and...nothing works. Not a thing. "When you think you know me, right, I switch it up! Behind the walls smoking cigarettes and sippin' vodka!" I thought this song might be able to grow on me. You know - it's supposed to be the great 'fun album opener' song. It's not fun. Bleh. "Knife Prty", you know, the one I mentioned earlier...it's pretty bizarre. In some cases, bizarre = excellent. Not in this case. So apparently one time the guys of the Deftones were drunk, and they started playing with their knife collections. This song was born. And it sucks. "Go get your knife, go get your knife," Chino insists. I'll pass, Chino, the basis of my reasoning being that this song gets on my nerves. "Feiticeira" is just bland sounding with no real musical appeal, although it tells an interesting story about a kidnapping. At the end, Chino's "Soon I'll let you go, soon I'll let you go" mumbles sound identical to Jonathan Davis of KoRN. Many people might interpret that as "So, why does this song suck again?" Well, quite simply, I'm no KoRN fan, so Chino sounding like Jonathan wasn't really ideal for me. Plus, there's just nothing going in this song...it makes me sleepy...
...now to the coolest part. If you don't have sixty billion hours of free time on your hands, don't, and I repeat DO NOT check out White Pony's enhanced features. AHHH! It has this game...so fun...okay...I'm sputtering. The heads of the band members are chomping around, chasing you, while you navigate a *gasp* white pony (how quaint) with the arrow keys on your keyboard to collect all the music notes. If you don't hurry the hell up, the Deftones are gonna eat you, and after three lives, you're - as the game puts it - "toe up!" So ridiculously addictive. I can't seem to get past Level 4, though. Hrrmph. The enhanced part of the CD also includes a short studio clip of the band jamming out, perhaps putting the song "Elite" together. The coolest thing about Chino's voice is how it can be so brutal and so soothing in an instant. Versatility is the key.
And White Pony HAS versatility...but some things are just boring. Some things just go wrong. There are so many cool things going on, but the dumb things bog it down a bit too much. This band rocks so much. Each member has an insane amount of talent. But with experimentation, there's bound to be a few missteps (erm, with a few bands being notable exceptions). Hence "Knife Prty", "Back to School (Mini Maggit)"..etc. White Pony is undoubtedly a must-must-have for hardcore fans' collections, but for those who haven't been "into" the Deftones for too long (such as myself), you'd probably be happier starting off with another one of their albums.
1. Back to School (Mini Maggit)
3. Digital Bath
5. Rx Queen
6. Street Carp
8. Knife Prty
10. Passenger (featuring Maynard James Keenan)
11. Change (In the House of Flies)
12. Pink Maggit
Be sure to check out the Deftones' 2003 self-titled release.