Around The Fur is Deftones’ second studio album, released on October 28, 1997. It was certified Platinum in 2011.
Mark: Welcome to the second installment in our series celebrating Deftones! Our first entry covered Adrenaline, a debut album that I still find enjoyable, warts and all. Jay’s criticisms of the record were fairly reasonable and understandable, though. It’s difficult to listen to that record and not see it as a band not quite fully formed, especially with the knowledge of what they would eventually become.
Now, we move onto what a sophisticated sommelier might call “the good shit”. That’s what we call good wine, right?
Around The Fur, and my apologies for the spoiler, fucking rips. I know that I’m supposed to listen to the album and provide a reaction, but I’m not sure that I need to reevaluate this thing to tell you that it rips.
I can’t begin this post any other way than to tell you my Around The Fur story, a story that I’ve told to anyone who will listen for the last 25 years.
Around The Fur came out maybe six months after I got heavily into Adrenaline. I had already gotten into Korn’s early records, and I was very excited by this new sound. I was hotly anticipating the Deftones’ follow-up record, to the extent that I would call the record store to check when the album was coming out. I had never done that before! Also, I guess we hadn’t gotten the internet at my house yet.
I bought the album the week it came out and got it home. I remember being so, so, so excited. I popped the CD into the machine and threw on my big headphones. When I pressed play… I was perplexed. It seemed that the band had moved very abruptly into a new direction. It wasn’t the worst music I’d ever heard, but it certainly wasn’t what I had signed up for.
I sat there feeling disappointed, and feeling as though there must have been some mistake. And then I started being sure that there had been some mistake when I realized that the number of tracks on the album did not match the number of tracks listed on the CD booklet (although back in those days, that was never a sure bet). Also, it sounded like the songs on the CD were recordings of a live concert, which seemed wrong to me.
I called the record store and told them that I thought there was something wrong with my new CD and they told me that I could come in and exchange it. We lived 20 minutes outside of town and I was 15 (and didn’t get my license to drive until I was in my 30s, ha ha ha), so I had to wait for agonizing days to go exchange the disc.
When I got the replacement album home, I put it on…
And promptly had my face melted all the way off by the opening seconds of “My Own Summer (Shove It)”.
I was the happiest boy in the world.
I now sometimes wonder whether or not the misprint copy that I got initially would be worth anything today. A few years later when I was working at a (different) record store, I determined that the album that had been printed onto the erroneous disc was Jane’s Addiction’s Kettle Whistle.
That’s my Around The Fur story, and I hope to turn it into a movie one day.
Hi Jay. The nice thing about this post is that whenever you have a complaint about something, we’ll really easily be able to rip on you about it because this album fucking kicks ass.
Jay: I reserve the right to express my opinions! In my years of having friends with goatees, soul patches, and frosted tips, I’ve had no shortage of exposure to Around the Fur. But again, I never really gave the record (or its intentions) a proper spin as it deserved. Time to change that and amass some valid criticisms!
My Own Summer
Mark: One of the best opening tracks of the entire 1990s? One of the best opening tracks in all of heavy metal?
“My Own Summer” is one of Deftones’ best songs, full stop. The feeling of menace conjured by the song’s opening passage is pretty difficult to top. That winding riff, locked in with those snappy drums. Good god.
Every section of this tune smokes. The seething, roiling verses that explode into one of the best scream-along choruses anybody’s ever heard. The bridge section, which manages to somehow maintains the tension while also shimmering with melody. The whole track just crushes.
I’ve seen them perform this live three times now and this song still hits hard. I’m an old man, so my mind has been turning to jello for a number of years, and I know that I sound like someone from my parents’ generation talking about how The Beatles still sound like new music to them to this day, but…
This still sounds like new music to me!
Jay: I think this is a step up from Adrenaline! Good riff, better sound than the last record, and good presence of the bass filling in a warm lower register. Chino feels like he’s settling into his vocal style more, too. But (and you knew it was coming) we have to be honest here for a moment. That first drum hit? Just listen to it for a second. Does it not sound like someone hitting a toy drum kit a little? It’s mainly the quality of the snare drum. And when the first big part comes in, doesn’t it feel like some of the dynamics are missing? The drummer does well adding in the splashier cymbal sound, but it hardly feels it goes anywhere. The chorus is full of good vocal performances, and much better recorded than the last record. That bridge is the highlight, though. But then again, look at the third version into the third chorus, a quiet whispery part that is basically exactly the same intensity and volume as the big loud refrain. I understand they probably mixed for radio, but it was missing so much oomph that I checked on different music services to see if it was just a by product of the audio encoder. Overall, a fun song but I still want more from the recording!
Mark: I love this song, particularly when the melody locks in with the chorus. There’s something about the chorus to this song that feels like getting knocked around by waves in a bunch of dirty, murky water. I’m sure that it’s partially the imagery in the videos and on the album art, but this album has always felt wet to me. It’s partially the production as well, which has a strange… watery quality in its textures.
I’m sure that Jay will have plenty to say about the production. So let’s all enjoy that.
Anyway, this song offers up some admirable chugs, melodies that felt extremely atypical and fresh at the time, and some chilling screams that raised the hairs on my 15 year old neck. It was also maybe around this point in the album that I started to really take notice of the lyrics on this album.
Adrenaline already kind of stood out from something like Korn or the alt-rock that I had primarily listened to before getting into this (ahem) new metal music. It wasn’t just “boo hoo I very sad and mad fuck you dad” the way that other music of the time seemed to be. It was all much more impressionistic and strange, in a way that I found fascinating. I remember trying to decipher what any of these songs were about, and it added an extra dimension to my experience of the music.
I still think that these lyrics are pretty good! Better than their contemporaries, anyway. By a huge stretch!
Jay: I love how much the bass adds when it comes in here, despite essentially doubling the guitar chugs. Fantastic key changes from verse to chorus. Urgent guitar and drum work. We’re only on track 2 but it’s clear that Chino is going to lean too much on the whispery gibberish into a midrange mic thing for my tastes. He clearly took some lessons away from the first record. I love much of the bridge, the hard-to-predict pauses, but I could live without the babbling vocal line. I will agree with Mark that this is a fascinating song, and while I think the vocals aren’t really successful for me, it promises that the album cuts will be much better than on their debut record.
Mark: This stunner took me way off guard on first listen. The first two tracks on Around The Fur are straight-up rippers, and there’s nothing on Adrenaline that would point toward something this creepily pretty (or beautifully ugly?) as “Mascara”. I still think that this track is really interesting.
My biggest take-away from this tune is just how straight a line one can draw between the band’s next album and the swooning chorus found here. It’s got a sultry quality that the band would later double-down on hard, to the extent that I have heard for years that Deftones’ third record, White Pony, is “the metal album you can have sex to”.
“Mascara” is sexy and scary and ugly and pretty, all in the same way that many of White Pony‘s tracks are. It’s great. I think it might be the first song off of this album that I sat down and figured out how to play. I love all of the discordant guitar lines in this tune.
Jay: This intro is so far the most interesting thing on the record by a country mile. Lots of mood, fantastic guitar sound, space to think and reflect. I’m much less in love with the loud Chino vocals on the verse; it’s a decent performance but I feel like he’s close enough to me to be getting little drooly bits on my ear. Strange turn in the chorus that I’m not sure works, but I like the effect. The most interesting thing of all about this song, though, is that this is what Mark thinks sexy is.
Around The Fur
Mark: Twenty-five years ago, there were two songs that I could hear a drummer play in a practice space and think “Oh, okay. That’s a good drummer.” One of ’em was Nirvana’s “Scentless Apprentice”. The other was this one. Deftones have a good drummer!
I always kind of lumped “Around The Fur” in with “My Own Summer” from this record as the “catchy rippers” category of song. The chorus is still huge, and that outro is totally unhinged. The song is very heavy, but it seems like more just straight-ahead chugging for the most part, instead of the truly innovative and fascinating riff circus that makes up “My Own Summer”.
I like this song, but I think that I used to consider it on par with “My Own Summer”. It isn’t. The hooks aren’t as interesting and it seems more just pissed off than truly menacing.
It’s pretty good, though! Those drums!
Jay: Great drum beat off the hop! I wish the drums sounded better. To Terry Date’s credit, it’s mainly in the actual sound of the snare itself, rather than TD’s production (as per the first record). I’m not sure if I’ve been worn down by the record, but this song seems to have a better sense of dynamics than the first couple of songs. I agree with Mark that this track is a little less satisfying, but I think it’s a pretty compelling ditty that would be a ton of fun live. I do wish the drums were just a bit higher in the mix, but I also enjoy the huge size of the guitars.
Mark: This was around the point in my first listen of the album where I was already thinking “Wow, this record is a lot heavier than the last one”, and then they drop this absolute meat grinder of a tune. “Rickets” completely blew me away when I was a teen, and I still think that it rips.
I wasn’t listening to many acts at the time who really played around with time signatures other than your standard four-on-the-floor (Nine Inch Nails, I guess? Soundgarden?), and the swirling, grinding riffs found on “Rickets” were an eye-opening joy. It seemed more metallic than they’d ever been, and also seemed to hit harder than anything their contemporaries were doing. I hadn’t yet gotten into more “extreme” levels of metal or hardcore, and I think that songs like this really primed the pump for that to happen later.
It still sounds great. It showcases that terrific marriage between a really tight band and a super unhinged vocal performance. Clocking in at just two and a half minutes, I have absolutely nothing to complain about here.
Jay: This is the best track on the record and it kind of illuminates most of the previous tracks as a bit juvenile. This is harder and somehow seems more thoughtful than all the previous songs. Easily my favourite song on the record so far. Dark, harsh, but earned. What would have happened if Deftones had followed this trajectory instead of going toward their slow stoner nu metal thing?
Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)
Mark: Ah, yes. The big hit.
This song was all over Much Music when I was in high school, and I remember a lot of people really liking it, even if they weren’t super into the band or the “metal music” scene in general. The slick music video, complete with Chino walking around doing Backstreet Boys-style hand signs while he sings… probably had something to do with the way that this song translated. People loved a handsome goatee man in a v-neck back then.
I still think this song is great. I actually almost never listen to it, because I think I over-listened to it (and constantly covered it in bands) when I was young. I guess I feel like I’ve heard it enough, but listening to it now… it’s a great song.
The vocal melodies in this song are so tremendous, and double down on something that their other music had just been hinting at. Chino’s croon is smooth but unpolished, and the combination of the vocal performance with the lyrics conjure a feeling that was completely atypical in heavy music at the time. It actually feels far more akin to the feelings that would be brought up by a lot of music in another genre of heavy rock that would become way too popular just a few years later. A certain kind of very EMOTIVE heavy rock music. But let’s not talk about that right now.
The band keeps it pretty simple during this song, but it gels perfectly with the mood and melody, and they serve up some great, slamming sections, alongside the more atmospheric music-bed passages. This radio edit version that is embedded above completely does away with the swelling coda & fade-out of the original version, and it suffers for it. I recommend the original version of the song, even though it is longer than five minutes and I usually dislike songs longer than five minutes.
I was coming into this expecting to write something about how this was a big song back in the day, but I had cooled off on it, and it’s fine but whatever. Instead, I think that I maybe enjoyed listening to this song the most out of all of them? Maybe just the mood I’m in at the moment, but I really loved hearing this. Great song.
Jay: Ah yes, Deftones’ “Everlong” song! I know this one! I have heard this riff approximately ten thousand times in jam rooms and basements. It is to Deftones’ credit that they perfectly nail the sound and performance on this recording; if those jam rooms and basements were any indication, this is a hard one to nail. I think it’s a pretty good song and a pretty good recording. Funny: Chino was sort of the standout on the first record for me, but so far on this record I find him to be more hit or miss and the guitars, bass, and drums to be doing some pretty consistently good work. Good song! I do think “Everlong” is a better song, though.
Mark: “Lotion” is a genius example of the band’s knack at the time of balancing an absolutely shredding bit of abrasive hardcore-laced metal against a sweetly hooky melodic section. I think that perhaps most people consider this one to be an “album track”, but I find a lot to love here.
Although they got lumped in with the nu metal/rap rock thing, even this early on there are only a handful of spots on this record that seem to involve “rapping”, and the verses here feature a bit of that vibe. But they also sound the most pissed off and unhinged of any of this album’s vocals, so it kind of becomes its own thing. I love the call-and-response pattern that the band launches into in the verse sections, alternating the guitar’s discordant, watery roar with off-kilter full-band chugs. It rips.
Whole song rips.
Jay: I dig the chorus. I think the verse sounds pretty corny, to be honest. I’m struggling to figure out what’s bugging me about the vocals, but it’s the same situation here. Anyway, his vocals aren’t for me on the verses, though I like his melodic choices on the chorus. I just went back to “Rickets”, though, and I have to say tracks like “Lotion” just don’t have the same impact by comparison. Admittedly, “Lotion” does have a great outro scream, though.
Dai The Flu
Mark: Like “Mascara”, “Dai The Flu” felt like a big swing in a whole new direction. It sort of splits the difference between a big, hooky crowd pleaser like “Be Quiet And Drive” and a subtle creepfest (à la “Mascara”). This was actually an early favourite of mine, to the extent that I tried to force a cover band I was in at the time to play this song. They really, really didn’t get it.
I love it, though. The big, distorted bassline that anchors the verse provides a perfect bed for Chino at his most Chino-y. I have no fucking idea what this song is about. But it sounds great!
The vocal hook in the chorus (and the instrumental behind it) seems like the perfect Deftones-ian hook to me. Undeniably catchy, but biting. The vocal melody soars, but isn’t perfectly polished. The guitars maintain their “serrated edge made of water” tone. And the bass is just enormous in this song.
The bridge/outro is one of the best examples of the kind of escalation that this band is capable. Maybe not to the extent of what they pull of on “Change (In The House Of Flies)” on the next record, but the repetitive build towards the finish in “Dai The Flu” still gets my heart going.
I love this one!
Jay: This first verse is a great weathervane for me: the first babbly whisper lines are just brutal to my ears, but as soon as he starts singing, I really enjoy it. There’s something classic pop-rock about the verse bassline that I really enjoy, and something off-kilter about the chorus that’s fun, too. It doesn’t necessarily feel like this would be my favourite track by them, but I enjoy most aspects of it. It’s OK!
Mark: I’ve said very few bad things about this album (and this band) so far in this series…
…and I’m not about to start now!
“Headup” is basically this album’s version of “Engine no 9” from their debut. Kind of just a ripper with rap-rock verses and a huge call and response chorus hook. I think I might actually kind of prefer “Engine no 9”, but in general I find these hardcore rap-rock tunes to be a spot of fun that never manage to make a big impact on me.
“Headup” does hold the advantage of featuring Max Cavalera from Sepultura (and later Soulfly – who either got their name from this song, or gave their name to the lyrics of this song). Hearing Max and his brutal croak on a song is always a treat.
“Headup” also has a much bigger sing-along outro than “Engine no 9”, so it’s got that going for it.
I dunno, both tunes are catchy slammers with riffs that are super fun to play. But they’ll never be the first Deftones song that I choose to throw on at any given time.
Jay: Now that’s a fun riff, a nice natural progression from their first record, only not when it drops, it’s a far, far better sounding band and record. I hate the rooster sounds into the mic between verses, and the duelling croaks are definitely not for me. The chorus vocals are kind of hilarious, like a proto-System-of-a-Down without the talent (hahaha, sorry Mark!), but I think it’s undeniable that a song like this would absolutely kill in a live setting. The slow fade out on the breakdown doesn’t do much for me, but at least it gives the record some variety.
Mark: A pretty terrific closer. “MX” is built around a riff that sounds absolutely cataclysmic.
The big stars for me, here, are the slinky bassline during the verses, and the vocal melodies in general. The whole song from a vocal perspective serves as an example of what set Deftones so thoroughly apart from their contemporaries (and still kind of does). Nobody was writing melodies like this at the time, and nobody was delivering their parts like this.
Chino’s performance on this track sounds so simultaneously tender, vulnerable and threatening. Kind of terrifying. I actually find the alternating vocal part between Chino and the recording of a woman speaking to be extremely unsettling. I have no idea what this song is about, but… it sounds like it might be bad!
As I said above, this is a solid closer. The band sounds massive and the whole affair is absolutely chilling.
Jay: Once again, I’d like to highlight that this vocal line is Mark’s idea of “tender”. Great brooding riffs. As this record is coming to a close, I’m honestly shocked that I’m finding Chino’s contributions to be some of the weaker parts of the album; his approach was certainly what made the band stand out to me before I’d really listened closely, and they were my favourite parts of the first album. The vocal ideas on this song work mostly OK, and the watery effect is interesting. But whenever he leans into the ASMR aspect of his vocal recordings, I struggle. Maybe it’s just a me thing. I’m not sure how to interpret the lines by the woman, whether the accent is natural or put on, whether it’s meant to be read as sincere or parody. Overall I’m not sure I understand why this track is the closer, but I’m also not sure what other track I’d choose instead.
Mark: Ah, yes. The secret song.
I dunno, this is a fun tune. I can see why it wasn’t featured in the main track listing, as I’m not sure that it does anything that isn’t already done better by other tracks on the album. I think if I’ve gotta give this song something, it would be credit for the fact that the verses are bouncy and upbeat in a way that the rest of the album is not. Outside of “Be Quiet And Drive”, this is an extremely dark record.
But there are probably people who adore this song. I think that it might have been one of my favourites when I was a teen. The scream and response chorus is pretty fun, and the song moves really well.
You could do a lot worse!
Jay: I like this well enough. I also get the sense that they have a song that’s similar? It feels like I’ve heard this before, and I’ve definitely not sat through thirty minutes of silence in order to hear the secret song on a Deftones record. I come from a very frumpy school of thought that secret songs are best reserved for self-indulgent, noisy, experimental, aimless, meandering explorations. This just feels like a track that would have been an album cut, or a B-side on a single. I like the track!
Mark: I think that this is one of the best metal albums of the 1990s and probably one of my personal favourite metal albums of all time. I like every song. To my ears, it holds up extremely well. It sounds dated to me in the way that a true classic album sounds dated – it sounds like it’s of a time, but it doesn’t sound tired or stale.
Where Adrenaline had spunk, but fell victim to feeling very same-y from song to song, Around The Fur mixes things up substantially. The band expands its sound and sharpens it, sounding tighter and heavier than they had previously. At the same time, they begin to experiment with more melodic, thoughtful material, which they would further refine to great effect on future albums.
Deftones were at the height of their powers here, buoyed by youthful enthusiasm and not yet hampered by the dark side of substance abuse. If one absolutely has to classify this album as a Nu Metal album (which I don’t), I’m not sure that there’s a better one?
If there is, it’s probably only Deftones’ next record, White Pony.
How did Mr. Jay enjoy it?
Jay: I will agree that this album has aged far, far better than Adrenaline. It sounds fresh and urgent and while I have quibbles with the sound (notably the snare and the placement of Chino’s voice), I think it works just as well for me today as any other time I’ve heard fragments of this record.
This record is better than Adrenaline in basically every way, and has some genuinely great moments. The guitars are much more up my alley, the production is much more up my alley, and the songwriting has way more highs and way fewer lows. It’s great to be able to actually hear and appreciate the bass guitar!
But also, and I’m surprised to say this, Chino’s contributions felt like the weakest link in many instances. I don’t imagine he was in the studio dicking around, but there is way too much reliance on babble, on loud whispering, on laying into the clucks and breaths and ASMR-like aspects of recording into a microphone. When he sang in a straightforward way, I was in. When he whisper sang, or sounded like my aunt telling me about all the things that weren’t available at the grocery store on her last trip, I just didn’t buy into it, and it felt like more of a performance than the first record. I don’t know. Maybe that’s just me.
There’s also an interesting thing happening here, where the band is obviously heavy, but there are undercurrents of sultriness, or maybe attempts at seduction. The juxtaposition of heavy music and sultry vocals is interesting and the contrast is sometimes a highlight; it also sometimes leads to an emotionally hard to place song.
Overall there was much more here to enjoy. I still don’t know how much there is here that I’d go back to, how much actually stirred me up, how much made me feel anything other than a vague interest in moshing. I liked that “Rickets” song quite a bit, I guess. But my fuzzy notion is that from here, the Deftones get more expansive, slower, more methodical, leaning more into the slow vocal over interesting rhythms. Maybe that’s two records ahead, I don’t know. I look forward to finding out
Mark: I’ve gotta admit, I’m surprised that you only mentioned the drum sound about twelve times! Kind of taken aback by the Chino comments, but hey – I’m taking this review as an overall win. Really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on White Pony, which we will get around to writing about in the next couple of… months.