Crate-Digging Archive: Deftones – Around the Fur

I have a completely-filled 120 GB iPod classic, the record crate of the digital age, containing my entire music library. I’m listening to each release in alphabetical order by record title – kind of a virtual archaeological dig. These are my findings.

Originally published in early Spring 2009, and presented here with some revision.

(Maverick, 1997)

I don’t know what “around the fur” means. Anybody? I’m thinking that Deftones had some kind of marketing tie-in with a pet company – you know, like hair ties, barrettes, or scrunchies for puppies or something, so they don’t get caught on furniture or in doors or cabinets. (Yeah, that’s probably what Deftones are going for. They probably like puppies.) My cousin breeds Lhasa Apsos – now before you recoil in disgust (as most tend to do), realize that Lhasas are animals too, and as such have a need for “around the fur” products. They really are like scooting, eating, pooping mops, and that long hair gets in the way, big time. For you dogs and your cleanliness, as well as for the peace of mind of you owners, look no further than Around the Fur.

I kid, I kid! I can actually say I was surprised by how much I still like this album. I haven’t listened to it for years. My Deftones heyday was probably from 1995 to 1998 – quite a while ago. In the interim we’ve weathered the mook-rock nu-metal crisis of the late 1990s, in which Deftones were regrettably yet definitely complicit, having toured with and been cited in the same breath as the likes of Korn, Sevendust, Coal Chamber, Limp Bizkit, etc. *Hwuh.* (That was my throwing up sound, like Chunk in Goonies recreating his theater puking story.) So obviously it’s with some sheepishness that I’ll cop to liking Deftones, as the rest of these bands and this scene in general rub me in the absolute wrong direction, and I pride myself on constantly expanding the boundaries of my musical taste. Coming back to this feels like a regression. Liking it feels like an admission of guilt.

But the record is really good – it’s totally engaging from start to finish in a heavy way that’s both dark and fun. It’s Thinking Man’s nu-metal in a way, such that one can easily envision tattooed, be-spiked, wife-beater-clad, knuckleheaded mooks scratching their heads in consternation at it, like cartoon Neanderthals contemplating the shapes and functions of objects that would eventually become The Wheel. (Square? Nope. Triangle? Nope. Octagon? Nope… but we’re getting warmer.) There’s a great sense of space and atmosphere present in the production of songs like “Mascara,” “MX,” and radio-ready “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away).” (The remix of this latter song is gorgeous, by the way, and surpasses the original.) It’s quite clear that dream pop and shoegaze really inspired Around the Fur, and Deftones are open and unapologetic fans of Depeche Mode and The Cure. The head-crushers are still there, though, like “My Own Summer (Shove It),” “Lotion,” and “Dai the Flu,” you know, for fans of the heavy stuff. Singer Chino Moreno’s voice is ridiculous – a Jason-Martin-of-Starflyer-59-esque croon one minute, a screeching war banshee the next. I like.

I was surprised by how little rap remained from their first album, Adrenaline, and this is a good thing. Leave the rap-rock behind. Please, and thank you. And they have throughout the handful of records since Around the Fur, preferring even more atmosphere and studio experimentation on one hand (2000’s White Pony, arguably their best record) and raw skate-thrash aggro on the other (2003’s Deftones). Deftones are good at both. So I guess, at the end of the day, despite my music-nerd snobbery and indie-centric glory, I’m still an unapologetic Deftones fan. Get with it, or get bent.

RIYL: Quicksand, Depeche Mode, Sepultura

You might also like: