The sore thumb

with Baroness
7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 27
House of Blues,


It's 2010. Nobody talks about Limp Bizkit, Korn or Papa Roach anymore except as a punch line. Bands like Trapt, Hed PE, Flyleaf and Mudvayne seem like hazy, shameful memories of an era when, really, you should have known better. And, indeed, nu-metal, as a genre, seems exactly like that: Music a lot of people listened to when, really, they should have known better.

So why does listening to the Deftones — a band that, despite their continued protestations, are most certainly a nu-metal band — still seem like a good idea? Why does the prospect of an upcoming concert by the band still excite metalheads (and others) with good taste? The short answer is, of course, because the Deftones are not only better than Mudvayne or whomever, but that they're also better than nu-metal.

Generally speaking, nu-metal bands fall (or fell) into two categories: Angry young men who are dumb, and angry young men who are dumb, but also sad, and so they sing — in a dumb way — about how sad and angry they are. Of course, the dudes (and they're almost always dudes) in the former group are typically just cock-swinging assholes trying to tighten the aggression screws on late '80s hair metal. But the dudes in the latter group think that by grafting detention-hall poetry onto plodding, downtuned "metal," they've found a way to exorcise their demons.

On the surface, Sacramento's Deftones fall squarely into the latter group, with all the bottled-up rage of years as teenage victims bursting through their music. Yet, the band has always been light years beyond any of its supposed peers, combining intelligence, a heightened sense of sonic drama, and balls-out aggression in a way that no other nu-metal band has even come close to.

The lyrics of vocalist Chino Moreno — when you can make them out while he's screaming in that oh-so-nu-metal way — manage to be cathartic and personal, but they're also remarkably evocative. A song like "Sextape" shouldn't have a chorus like "the sounds of the waves collide" but it does. Hell, even when the band does (seriously) a rap-metal version of a song about high-school dramas ("Pink Maggit"), Moreno spins out complex, long-winded lines about how useless it is for adults to dwell on how miserable those years were.

Those lyrics have long been a big signifier for why Deftones are above the fray: Not because they contain any real poetry, but because they indicate that Moreno and the rest of the band aren't just cheap, genre-hopping hustlers. They make aggressive, youth-oriented music that touches on familiar themes and, yeah, may include a muscular nod to hip-hop, but they do it as artfully and seriously and with as much taste as any band could hope to. Any group, nu-metal or otherwise, that manages that feat in today's landscape deserves much more than to be lumped in with Fred Durst.

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