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Death Grips Stick to Strengths With Free Album

Published: November 22, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

I’m going to preface this review with the following statement: I don’t really get the indie music community’s obsession with Death Grips. The first time I heard of the Sacramento-based industrial-hip-hop-experiment-group-thing was at the 2012 Coachella Festival. It was the middle of a very long and extremely hot day, and I had just finished an overpriced burger and fries for lunch. As we walked to the other side of the massive polo field that houses the festival, we noticed one of the smaller tents was packed to the brim in the middle of the day, and we were surprised to find that it was not the usually bro-infested dubstep tent.

No, this tent contained a general mixture of Coachella’s audience; hipsters, punks, Odd Future fans, doting parents, and even a couple bros and some ravers. My friends and I made our way pretty close to the front and waited for the mystery band to begin. After around 15 minutes and several (declined) offers of ecstasy, three dudes took the stage to raucous applause and screams. Before I knew it, I was in a frenzy. We left early. A couple weeks later I tried out Death Grips’ first album “The Money Store” and liked a couple songs while Pitchfork raved that they were the return of punk-rap. When the band released their second album “No Love Deep Web” without telling their label and then were “unexpectedly” got dropped, I became even less interested and in how self-obsessed and arty I thought they were.

Their whole deal with not showing up for their shows as “performance art” was even more proof to me that they were a pretentious buzzband not worth my time. But their latest free release, “Government Plates,” changed my tune a bit. It’s still pretentious, starting with “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” and unnecessarily long noise sections in “Anne Bonny” and “Bootleg” but songs like “Feels Like a Wheel,” “Two Heavens” and “This Is Violence Now (Don’t Get Me Wrong)” are intense and fun. Andy “Flatlander” Morin’s production and beatwork is really good and features a lot of craziness, and drummer/octopus man Zach Hill provides an amazing background.
Even Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett’s shouted, unintelligible vocals, are pretty tolerable this time around. “Birds” is boring, but the mostly instrumental “I’m Overflow” and “Big House” are energetic and fun. The lyrics are nonsense, but then again that’s per usual with Death Grips. The best song on the album, “Whatever I Want,” is the last one, but it is very creative and fun to listen to. At the end of the day, I still wouldn’t call myself a big Death Grips fan, and I probably wouldn’t have even listened to “Government Plates” if it wasn’t free. But the fact that I did at all and enjoyed myself shows that Death Grips are an interesting band with a unique and cool sound. But “Government Plates” also sounds the same as every Death Grips album, and for all their creativity and pretentiousness, that only exacerbates the latter.