Honestly, I didn’t bother listening to Deez Nuts‘ ‘Crooked Smile‘ when it first dropped last week. Not because I don’t like the band – I actually enjoy a fair amount of their songs – I just simply assumed it would be like all of the other Deez Nuts songs. Y’know, there being plenty of distorted three-chord progressions; lyrics about brotherhood, partying, being honest, and doing shit for yourself; some big drum grooves; a few gang vocals here and there, and that’d be about all. Well, silly me. Because when a friend informed me that “Deez Nuts are a pop-punk band now,” I realized I was either missing out on something rather cool and different from the hardcore band, or something quite disastrous. Turns out, this song lean towards the latter instance.
Forgoing their tried-and-true, no-fucks-given hardcore approach, Deez Nuts have now tried to take on a more melodic, pop-punky, skate punk vibe. (The keyword there being “tried.”) And to be honest, when looked at on paper, that’s actually not that ill-advised of a style shift for them; it’s probably the closest genre that they could’ve jumped into after records like ‘Word Is Bond‘ (2015) and ‘Binge & Purgatory‘ (2017). This just isn’t the best example of them under-going that change. So yes, ‘Crooked Smile‘ is quite the switch in sound for them but one that hasn’t gone over too well with now-confused fans either. I’ve also since seen people mention that it’s ironic that Deez Nuts released ‘Stay True‘ back in 2008, and that this isn’t them “staying true.” Yet that debut record is more about a mindset of sticking true to one’s core beliefs and values, standing close by the company one keeps and who they are as a person, more so than just forever writing a certain style of heavy music.
That being said, personally, I’m not about ‘Crooked Smile‘ in the slightest. It’s got this pierced-tongue-in-tattooed-cheek feel to it, like an ironic Smash Mouth but if their music had way less charm and was more punk-orientated. The absolute hardest this song goes is during the “bring it back” bridge section, but even then, it’s all still quite limp-fisted, instrumentally and vocally speaking. The whole track lacks any sort of real bite or energy, let alone a decent hook to latch on to as well. That, and there’s the fact that JJ Peters is much better as a screaming, yelling frontman, but here, he can’t really carry the right vocal tune to lift the track up during the choruses when it needs to. (His vocal clarity also leaves something to be desired when he’s singing too.) And the gruff backing screams from guitarist Matt Rogers don’t add much either.
Deez Nuts obviously could not keep writing tunes such as ‘It’s Like That,’ ‘Streets Are Watching‘ and ‘Party At The Hill‘ for the rest of their time as a band: something has to give. And to be fair, an attempt was made here, but boy, this one is pretty damn rough. Change in of itself should never be the end-all. The actual merit and direction of said change are what should be looked at instead. So while I must give props to JJ and co. for trying out something different, beyond their own norm at least, this ain’t it. ‘Crooked Smile‘ is also probably the first song I’ve ever heard where I’d describe it as “having a punchable face.”
Deez Nuts‘ new album, ‘You Got Me Fucked Up‘, is out October 18th. It will be interesting to see if this new single is indicative of the larger record or if there are other surprises in-store. Stream ‘Crooked Smile‘ below if you want.