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100 Years, 100 Songs: #97. The Deftones – “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 17, 2007

“I don’t care where / just far”

The Deftones are an alternative metal band in just about every meaning of the term. They’re alternative in the literal sense, because they’re the kind of metal band that non-metal fans still often deem acceptable. That’s largely because they’re also alternative in the alt-rock sense–The Deftones seem to see themselves more in the lineage of 80s college rock and dream pop than 80s metal, which is why you’re way more liable to see them cover The Cocteau Twins or The Cure than Iron Maiden or Megadeth.

And they’re alternative in the sense they sound like pretty much no other metal band that’s ever existed. When nu-metal exploded in the late 90s, many were quick to brand The Deftones as the godfathers–or at least, the unsung heroes–of the genre, and aesthetically maybe it made a little sense. They had the quiet/loud thing pushed to the extremes on the verses and choruses, lead singer Chino Moreno sure shouted a lot, and the lyrics seemed at least vaguely troubled and angsty. But ideologically, The Deftones couldn’t be much further apart from the nu-metal scene at the turn of the millenium–because at the end of the day, The Deftones were maybe the only band of the bunch that were actually concerned with sounding pretty.

Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” is a very, very pretty metal song. Probably not the Deftones’ prettiest, but still lovelier than 99.9% of other metal. And it’s not pretty in the way that symphonic metal or Metallica’s S+M are supposed to be, but in the far more haunting, shoegaze assault-inspired manner, influenced by groups not even on the great majority of metal bands’ radars. And in that manner, they actually were fairly influential on the nu-metal scene, but in a way that’s not immediately obvious–they helped inspire the ethereal, dreamlike quality that wavers over a lot of the best nu-metal singles–early efforts by StainD, Linkin Park and even a couple of the better Limp Bizkit singles, which had an extremely unsettling calm over parts of the song, which often turned out to be much more memorable than the trademark loud, shouty parts.

But despite the niceness, The Deftones were still a metal band, and “Be Quiet and Drive” is one of the best metal songs of the 90s. Unlike a number of the best-known Deftones songs, which save most of the song’s energy and volume for the chorus, “Be Quiet and Drive” more or less hits you right at the outset–after a short, high-pitched guitar intro, the song rips into action, a gorgeous, heavenly produced two-chord guitar pattern which is almost explicitly Shieldsian (Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine for you non-shoegaze fanatics) in its tone and its hypnotic effect. Moreno moans unintelligibly over the verses, and I doubt I’ll ever understand what he’s saying, but that’s all right, because the song can be summarized in one word: “FAR!!!!”

The Deftones are great song titlers. The art of song titling is an extremely underrated one, but with a really effective title, you set the tone for the entire song, and with the hugely evocative title of “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away),” lyrics are almost an after thought, because you already know exactly what the song’s about, even if the hugely energetic, emotional and urgent guitar riff wasn’t enough of a clue. But because it’s still a metal song, and none of the best metal songs leave an opportunity for great catharsis unchecked, Moreno gives the vocal performance of a lifetime on the repeated chorus to end the song: “Idon’tcarewherejustFAAARRR!!!! Awaaaayyyy….”

It’s beautiful, all right. But the beauty of the song is inextricably tied to the song’s metalness, which is why the acoustic version is almost as almost as pretty and just as haunting (in fact, it’s often attributed to Radiohead in filesharing programs) but not nearly as memorable. It’s territory that surprisingly few bands have ever tried to inhabit, possibly because they know they could probably never do it as well as The Deftones do here.

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7 Responses to “100 Years, 100 Songs: #97. The Deftones – “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)””

  1. Have you heard Saturday Night Wrist? White Pony has left me a little underwhelmed, but I love “Hole in the Earth” and “Cherry Waves,” do you think the rest is worth it?

  2. Andrew Unterberger said

    I’ve only listened to it once, seemed pretty good, though those two songs are almost undoubtedly the highlights.

  3. Victor said

    Around the Fur is fairly high up on my personal hierarchy of favorite album covers, it’s a hierarchy based on suggestive sexiness.

    Suffice to say there’re a lot of Scorpions covers on there.

  4. Andrew Unterberger said

    Does Blind Faith make it on there, or is that too creepy?

    Around the Fur also is a lock in the “Cover with absolute least to do with album’s content” category

  5. Victor said

    Indeed, I felt somewhat cheated by the lack of connection.

    I dig the Blind Faith cover, it’s a Victorian lithograph compared to the orginal cover for The Scorpions’ 1977 album Virgin Killer

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Killer

  6. […] Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” especially (which I’ve already spent plenty of words raving about) are unbelievably striking, down to singer Chino Moreno’s shouts of “FAR!” […]

  7. Nelle said

    It’s really very complex in thgis full of activity life
    to listen news on Television, therefore I simply use internet for that reason,
    and get the hottest news.

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