The year of our lord 1997 was the beginning of a creative dark age for rock music. Awful acts like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Coal Chamber were the vanguard of an Adidas tracksuit wearing armada of trend bands that would set rock music back nearly a decade. The trend was Nu-metal, a truly heinous crime against music, that saw god awful heavy metal combined with rap, turntables, cheeseball lyrics and stupid haircuts. It wasn’t coincidence that think pieces spread like wildfire during these years asking if rock music had finally died.
In amongst this trend was Sacramento’s Deftones. On the surface they had the look and feel of a nu-metal band. They wore the silly Adidas trackies and they rose to prominence playing a brand of metal that sounded a lot like Nu-metal. But they never really fit the Nu-metal mould. Their music was too layered and atmospheric while Chino Moreno’s lyrics were too poetic and cryptic for the average meathead who listened to Papa Roach and Disturbed.
Which brings us to Around the Fur. Released in 1997, Around the Fur would establish the Deftones as one of the biggest alternative bands. The first single off the album, “My Own Summer,” quickly grabbed fans’ attention with its brooding guitars and explosive choruses as Moreno’s pained screams unleash his rage at a scorching summer sun. A great track to be sure and one that continues ignite mosh pits over 15 years later but it doesn’t really distinguish the Deftones from the plague of Nu-metal bands circulating in the late nineties. Instead it’s “Be Quiet and Drive,” the second single off Around the Fur that sets the Deftones apart from their turgid, repetitive 90s brethren.
The subdued opening chords over Moreno’s heavy breathing give way to a melody that feels heavy and light footed at the same time. Moreno, who alternates perfectly between soothing vocals and distraught screaming, is the driving force behind this track as he attempts to renew himself by hitting the road. Depending on how you want to look at it, “Be Quiet and Drive” work can mean different things to different people. Such is the nature of Moreno’s ambiguous lyrics it can be seen as dealing with lost love, trying to shake off numbing apathy or finding yourself by travelling the open road for hours. There’s a sensuousness to the song that also makes it a perfect tune for creating a romantic mood. Few other metal vocalists have the same scope as Chino Moreno.
The Nu-metal phase would thankfully die out by 2002 and bands like Puddle of Mudd would become nothing more than an embarrassing footnote on rock’s continued evolution. It’s a testament to the Deftones’ musicianship that they remain a true giant of alternative music whose albums continue to garner critical acclaim. Although they may no longer wear backwards caps, Deftones have used tracks like “Be Quiet and Drive” and countless subsequent songs to illustrate what can be done when metal is combined with artistry and intelligence.