Review Summary: Unshackled.
At this point The Money Store
seems so sugary, so long ago. Since balancing on the tips of the music world’s tongues, Death Grips has come quite a ways from their first offering of 2012. Yeah The Money Store
was a glitchy, industrial mess of digitized noise
, but at its core the urgency was structured, and for all its boisterous eruptions and plastering drums it was held in place by its greasy hooks and MC Ride’s authoritative, throaty statements. No Love Deep Web
, which was essentially the year’s beacon of controversy, was, despite being more stripped-down and coarse, similar to its predecessor in its dense layers of mammoth synths and taut drums. While Zach Hill and Flatlander kept the album’s vertebral column erect with zooming, paranoid beats, MC Ride's howls, garbled and panicked, radiated among the disorder. And I say ‘disorder’ because of how tame that word is – at the time, Death Grips’ music probably did seem cataclysmic, tumultuous, discordant. But all that shit seems so glitzy now that hip-hop’s most polarizing outfit has released Government Plates
, an unrestrained, grisly cacophony of sonic lawlessness. All of Death Grips’ obnoxious antics and strident “fuck you”s seem to have brought them (quite logically) to where they are now, bumbling frantically, apocalyptically at the edge of the cliff as the world beneath their feet starts to crumble and give way. This is the state of nature; this is true
There is no melody here, and there’s no restraint either. As quickly as the trio shed the influence of a record label, they jettisoned consonance and any semblances of reprieve that their music once comprised as well. Except on “Big House,” which is as close to a 2012 throwback as it gets on this album, with its spacey, rumbling layers of spinning electro pulses and Ride’s hypnotic echos of “L.A. creepin’ under my skin,” MC Ride isn’t even rapping anymore – he’s just roaring whatever the hell he feels like, jarringly and uncontrollably, whenever the hell he feels like disturbing the grainy soundscape behind him. Further, his delivery is more primal than ever. With the beats stripped back and shredded through, his visceral Tourette’s-influenced bluster stampedes across parched savannahs of tracks like “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat” and “Anne Bonny”. The group’s approach of primitive, raw bedlam is pretty pervasive throughout the album; No Love Deep Web
had some relatively mellow songs like closer “Artificial Death in the West,” which seemed almost seraphic when held up to Death Grips’ typically schizophrenic light, but these respites are all but gone on Government Plates
, rearing their heads only briefly on songs like “Birds” before diving back into the mayhem. Unfortunately though, while the über-organic and undressed music is more than welcome, Government Plates
, in typical Death Grips fashion, is not without its wealth of filler (“This is Violence Now,” the middle 3 minutes of “Birds,” “Bootleg” to name just a few) to bring it down. Its other major defect is that many tracks attempt to pack too much into an intensely terse runtime, changing quickly from one theme to the next, leaving many an idea unexcavated and unadorned. In cases like “Whatever I Want,” this experimentation works beautifully (likely due to the time it spends meandering through each schema) as it weaves in and out of lush, cascading surges of laser scales and an almost celestial atmosphere with ease. Other songs don’t get the same treatment though and as a result, occasionally feel unfinished. The result is a sometimes great, sometimes merely serviceable album which can stand among Death Grips’ ample discography, despite occasionally sacrificing melody for amplified pandemonium.