Review Summary: It almost seems lazy to say that this album is a well-rounded mix of previous Death Grips endeavors, but there is some truth to that statement.
Once again... Death Grips continue to confound and befuddle listeners. The extremely divisive alt-rap trio from CA continues to divide with their newest release 'Government Plates'. The community just cannot decide: is Death Grips simply gimmicky noise or is there a masterful art to the explosive range of noises, sounds, and emotions they violently hurl at prospective listeners? As always, Death Grips divides, but does Death Grips conquer on this new endeavor?
The 'Exmilitary' mix-tape had some particularly fun and unique samples, and if you could accept and even enjoy MC Ride's extremely loud, screaming, ranting style of delivery then you found yourself enchanted by 'Exmilitary' and not turned away by it's anger and aggression. The Money Store perhaps toned down the aggression that we saw on 'Exmilitary' just a bit, but offered a consistent soundscape that painted an adequate picture of some sort of dystopic urban environment. I think each and every listener is going to take something away from Death Grips. For me (and for most listeners I imagine) a picture is painted of a dystopic urban landscape. Through some bizarre twist of distorted electronic effects and MC Ride's continued rapping style of shouting his lyrics, I feel transported to this dystopia. On 'No Love Deep Web' we peer further into the mind of the main character (that is if a main character is even presented in the picture painted by Death Grips). We peer into this character's mind and are entirely immersed in the soundtrack to their paranoia, substance abuse, violent tendencies, and potential catalogue of mental illnesses and ailments. Each of these albums are musically and progressively different from one another while being tied together by the common theme of loud, aggressive, depravity. Where now do we find ourselves as listeners approaching 'Government Plates'?
If you are planning on listening to this album, turn up your volume. Everything about Death Grips is about indulgence. Never exercise self restraint, toss aside your responsibilities, and enjoy nothing in moderation. On 'Government Plates' I feel this is even more true than on previous Death Grips albums. At points it is going to seem noisy, almost unbearably so, such as our cacaphonous opener – 'You might think he loves you for your money.. etc”. At other points, it is catchy and infectious, you'll be banging your head to the drop in 'Anne Bonny' (yes, this is headbanging rap if such a thing ever existed). It almost seems lazy to say that this is a mix of previous endeavors, but there is some truth to that statement. You will hear sounds reminiscient of 'Hustle Bones' as well as 'Guillotine' in the second track, 'Anne Bonny'. “Im Overflow” and “Feels like a Wheel” are tracks we could have heard on Exmilitary, both in pacing, and style of effects used. These tracks are almost entirely instrumental, actually – it's worth mentioning that MC Ride has a noticeabley diminished role as rapper on this album. Oh sure, he's there, loud and wild as ever, but it's almost as if all aspects of the songs have been equalized – beats, vocals, and synth – so that no one part outshines any other. Tracks such as 'Two Heavens' and 'This is Violence Now', return us to the minimalism, both in production style and MC Ride's rapping style that we became accustomed to on 'No Love Deep Web'. Not an awful lot is being said nor is much progression accomplished in these tracks, but that is not to say they lack substance.
But not everything in this album can be compared to something previously crafted by Death Grips. 'Birds', for example, is hardly comparable to anything Death Grips has ever thrown at us. It is a chaotic and confused mess of a track, but this is not a criticism; isn't that what Death Grips is all about? The other unique aspect of is that 'club-remix' feel that permeates the second half. Allow me to elaborate. Most of 'Big House', as well as parts of the album title track, 'Government Plates' seem to utilize looping and skipping effects that might remind you of a dj's club mix – if you were perhaps in some nightmarish surreal night club. To further add to this effect, many of the tracks on the album are difficult to determine the beginning and end of, since Death Grips likes to unexpectedly switch up tempo and tune right in the middle of a track. 'Whatever I want (*** who's watching)' breaks any semblance of a pattern that Government Plates attempted to construct, being one of the darkest and most invasive tracks I think Death Grips has ever offered us. We are subjected to six and a half minutes of a see-saw of a track, taking us between two extremes. From airy, ecstatic bubbly synth, we drop off without warning into some obscuring, slow, surreal, musical mire – and unexpectedly dragged back into the chaotic flurry of pop noise.
If this album has any flaws, I think that many of the tracks feel like filler. There aren't a ton of memorable moments short from 'Anne Bonny', 'Birds', and 'Whatever I want'. While being much more fun and diverse than No Love Deep Web, I am not sure this album is as thematically solid as 'The Money Store', nor does it have as much personality as 'Exmilitary'. But Death Grips still deserve their props. They still manage to bring us a new and diverse assault of sounds, when we might have expected they were out of gimmicks.
Favorite tracks: Anne Bonny, Two Heavens, Birds, Feels like a wheel, Big House, Whatever I want