Friday, 15 November 2013

Review: Death Grips

Death Grips Government Plates (Third Worlds, 2013)

"Fuck you". It's an appropriate lyric for Death Grips. "Fuck you" is Death Grips to a T. They say "fuck you" to record labels and fans alike. MC Ride's various quotables demonstrate an extreme lack of self-preservation - he don't give a fuck about himself. All signs point towards two middle fingers to everyone and everything. Their latest "fuck you" is Government Plates, released with absolutely zero fanfare onto the unsuspecting Deep Web, complete with visual accompaniments to each of the eleven tracks. Suffice to say, the people of the blogosphere lost their shit, all of them scrambling to write a feature on Government Plates as fast as they possibly could. It's strange to think a band as hostile and abrasive as Death Grips could invoke this sort of madness, but it's as good a testament as any to the group, who have been turning heads since 2011 with their incendiary blend of hip-hop, industrial, noise, rock, etc. No group working in the confines of hip-hop sounds quite like Death Grips, and Government Plates is possibly the furthest-removed from hip-hop they've reached in their short, trailblazing lifespan.

What's initially striking about this release is that MC Ride's vocal involvement seems to have been significantly pared back. A lot of the dense lyricism that blew your system on The Money Store and No Love Deep Web has been reduced to short, stabbing phrases. Take the previously released "Birds", wherein MC Ride does his best Lil B impression: he clumsily stumbles over his words, pays little attention to conventional rhyme schemes (not that Death Grips are renowned for their conventional approach to lyricism) and just generally sounds unfocused, disorientated even. It's a bewildering change of pace from a guy who previously screamed lyrical abstractions about paranoia, murder and Lady Gaga. Other tracks seem to remove Ride from the equation altogether, such as the twitchy "I'm Overflow", but his ferocious spirit is ever-present throughout the album by means of vocal manipulation and sampling, despite not having as much to say this time around.

Flatlander and Zach Hill's production on Government Plates remains resolutely Death Grips, but perhaps even less considerate of song structure than ever before. Stylistically this release lies somewhere between the cold, minimal No Love Deep Web and the overblown Money Store, with face-melting synths clattering against hard hitting drumming: the Dylan-referencing "You might think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for it's your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat" opens the album fantastically with the sound of breaking glass, high-pitched skronk, Ride's disturbed shrieking and Hill's massive, masculine beats. While the pace is often altered, the intensity of this album remains constant, and it's indicative of a group who still abound with frenetic energy two years on from their original incision into hip-hop.

Primitive and guttural as ever, Government Plates is more than the stopgap it could have been. Instead, it's another highly satisfying collection of paranoid, twisted tracks, albeit with more emphasis placed on the frazzled music than MC Ride's mind-bending raps. In true Death Grips style, it also happens to be a free download, so say "fuck you" to everyone you know and cop this shit while it's hot. Tomorrow isn't coming, it's here right frickin' now, and it sounds insane.


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