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THE ROCK

Friday, Feb. 14

Unsurprisingly, ††† (Crosses) isolates frontman Chino Moreno's contributions to his day job at the Deftones and builds on them. Out of all its late-'90s nu metal peers, the Deftones was the only band of its era to not regard sexuality and femininity with revulsion, contempt, or a threat to its own personal sovereignty. Even at the most bubblegum end of the rap-rock spectrum, Linkin Park still rode to success on the back of a chorus ("Shut up when I'm talking to you!") that sounded like an overheard prelude to a man about to beat up his wife.

Compared to all this, the Deftones' breakthrough hit "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" was more like an update of "Master and Servant" or "Behind the Wheel" by Depeche Mode. Moreno was way more interested in playing around with traditional gender power assignments and the politics that go with them, but more than that he expressed a very real (and very new wave) desire to be engulfed and consumed at the hands of his love interests. The only other artist accepted in the nu-metal community who was screwing around with these types of ideas was fellow Depeche Mode fanatic Trent Reznor with Nine Inch Nails, but Reznor didn't have the voice or words to articulate the true subjugation of the ego that Moreno thrived on.

With †††, there are no seven-string guitars or DJs, but there is the updated aggressive synth disco that Nine Inch Nails made famous with 1989's Pretty Hate Machine. The live electric bass lines nod to the dance floor without succumbing to the irritating and unfunky slap bass that was definitive to the nu metal aesthetic. But Moreno did not completely abandon the hip-hop inflections of the Deftones with †††—he just immersed his old school "rock the mic" mannerisms in the form of audience participation and a more general sense of fun he brought to the performance. While the stage was adorned by three glowing crosses and the band had the '80s goth look down (complete with Moreno's intention-sealing Joy Division T-shirt), the music was the perfect distillation of the suburban SoCal new wave experience—a day at the beach in black clothes, making out while Tones on Tail plays on KROQ.

More by Joshua Levine

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