Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The top 10 albums of the '00s: No. 4

White Pony

If you want a shortcut to understanding Deftones, you can jump to 2:43 on "Pink Maggit," the moment when the slow, emotion-choked groans of Stephen Carpenter's ESP are about to reverberate out of earshot. That's when the band explode with a throbbing wound of guitar vehemence, and they burn it in over the next three minutes like they're blanching the earth.

White Pony, the band's third album, came riding in strong and bold, showing them refining their songcraft while branching out in new directions. "Teenager," a soft, pouty song, exercises the turntable talents of then-new member Frank Delgado, while "Elite" points a flamethrower of hardcore metal at the haughty people who exhibit the vanity of royalty without even possessing the fame.

Chino Moreno unleashes an incredible vocal performance in "Digital Bath," maintaining the tunefulness of melody even while pushing his voice past the point where singing ends and screaming begins. In similar territory, the murky "Knife Prty" makes blood run cold with guest singer Rodleen's contributions, which begin as woozy intonations and advance to dog-whistle shrieks. The mixing and the layering are so skilled here that even her most piercing moments move in stride with the musical storm.

When Maynard James Keenan of Tool shows up, he and Moreno trade lines on a slick, menacing California drive in that damp window between the moon and the dawn. Ever discerning, the singers tantalize us with clues as to the nature of the drive, and leave the rest to imagination and interpretation: "Roll the windows down / this cool night air is curious / let the whole world look in / who cares who sees anything." It's J. G. Ballard meets David Lynch, and scenic drives are as valuable as shortcuts.

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