Review Summary: After a couple consecutive so-so albums, Death Grips returns with a vengeance on "Jenny Death".
In an era full of conformity in the music industry, Death Grips are one of the only truly rebellious acts left. From leaking their own album after Sony Records refused to release it (and subsequently getting released from their contract because of it) on time to faking their disbandment so they could drop off of a tour with Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden last summer, they've proved they genuinely don't care about adhering to industry norms or becoming famous in the slightest. Death Grips continues their reign of musical anarchy on their latest LP “Jenny Death”, which is easily the most well-rounded and enjoyable release the California-based trio has put out in years.
After their inconsistent experiments with straight-up electronic music on 2013's “Government Plates” and psychedelic pop on 2014's “N***as on the Moon”, “Jenny Death” sees the group return to their abrasive hip-hop/punk roots. The absence of constant musical chaos played a large role in the disappointment of their previous two albums, so to have the sense of danger and unpredictability return to their music here was beyond welcome.
True to Death Grips' no BS mission statement, “Jenny Death” comes out of the gate full steam ahead with "I Break Mirrors with My Face in the United States". With the trademark psychotic yelling vocals from Stefon "MC Ride" Burnett, spastic drums from Zach Hill and thumping synths from the group's MVP Andy "Flatlander" Morin, "I Break Mirrors with My Face in the United States" is a no-holds-barred adrenaline rush that puts the listener in a vice grip and doesn't let go. Later tracks such as "Inanimate Sensation", "Pss Pss" and "Centuries of Damn" manage to build upon the tone set by "I Break Mirrors with My Face in the United States" by giving listeners a series of powerful tracks that are pretty much guaranteed to destroy any speaker system they're played on. However, of all the slabs of aggression Death Grips drops on “Jenny Death”, "The Powers That B" is definitely the strongest. The drums are loaded with ear-piercing intensity and the synth drops hit so hard that they might cause electro/dubstep fans to shed tears of joy.
Making punk-infused experimental hip-hop is nothing new for Death Grips. Where “Jenny Death” distinguishes itself from the rest of the band's catalog is with its use of guitar. Adding guitars to the fold for the first time in their career allows the group to experiment with genres such as post-rock and shoegaze that they couldn't previously explore in their music. Guitars appear on just under half of the album, but the group gets the most out of every note. The ambient guitarwork on "Beyond Alive", "Turned Off" and the instrumental finale "Death Grips 2.0" offer a nice contrast to the unfiltered aggression Death Grips typically serves up. The majority of Death Grips' compositions are still driven by keyboards, synthesizers and drums, but it was nice to hear finally hear some guitars in the mix, and they'll hopefully continue to experiment with them on future releases.
The creative fire of Death Grips was definitely wavering for a while, so it's great to see them come back with a vengeance on “Jenny Death”. When they're on their game like they are here, Death Grips is easily one of the most exciting and unpredictable musical groups in the entire music industry. While I doubt they'll ever release another earth-shattering masterpiece like 2012's “The Money Store” ever again, they're certainly capable of continuing to put really solid records for years to come. “Jenny Death” has helped me rediscover why I loved Death Grips and that fact alone makes this album more than worthwhile.