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The Latest in Obscurity

Matthew McMahon | Thursday, November 14, 2013

By MATTHEW McMAHON

Scene Writer

Before I took what’s becoming a daily nap this Wednesday afternoon, there was no new Death Grips album, and there was no indication of a new Death Grips album. After I woke up, there had been a new Death Grips album for almost 30 minutes. This is how quickly and mysteriously one of the currently most important acts in music navigates. In the moments surrounding the group’s possibly misguided decisions, it may be hard to understand why the trio decides to do what it does.  

They cut ties with Epic Records by releasing their second album of 2012, “No Love Deep Web,” for free under their own label, Third Worlds, after alienating themselves from fans by retreating from public appearances to give the album the proper dedication they felt it needed. Yet, what are the chances that a group like Death Grips could succeed on a major label owned by Sony anyway, regardless of whether or not creative control was an issue?  And as for cancelling tour dates at seemingly the last second? In retrospect, that action falls in line with everything the Death Grips embody. They originated shrouded in unknowns – dropping their excellent introductory mixtape “Exmilitary” with little-to-nothing about the band being known – and stunts like these only bring them more publicity and a louder dialog within the music world.

“Government Plates,” dropped via the band’s Facebook page, marking the first thing Death Grips have put out since taking to Facebook to release what now appears to have been a lead single for the album/mixtape, “Birds.” That song, posted in August, came with no context besides the song’s lyrics. Similarly bizarre in nature, “Government Plates” comes with no warning and no explanation, except for accompanying music videos for each song on their YouTube channel.

On “Government Plates,” Death Grips experiment more with higher register beats and synth lines like in “No Love Deep Web,” but return to the more industrial style of their first two LPs. MC Ride sometimes explores some of the slowest, most deliberate, and possibly calmest flows he has ever spit – and he still sounds totally deranged.  Remaining as cryptic in writing as the band is with its image, Death Grips are at their most repetitious, while not conforming to traditional song structuring. Tracks throw everything in your face immediately and see what sticks; the band’s concrete ability to craft an insanely catchy hook usually means that everything sticks.

The one detraction here is how the album doesn’t necessarily feel like a collection of completely formed songs, but rather a handful of interesting ideas and concepts that the band felt necessary to get off their often-bare chests. Clocking in at just under 36 minutes, the album is a succinct, yet powerful, barrage of experimental, industrial beats and in-your-face vocal work.

Still, the whole album builds to monumental closing track “Whatever I want (F*** who’s watching).” The track instantly explodes with frontman MC Ride’s trademark paranoia, and the jarring samples pair perfectly. Experimental and noise influenced, the song features static, warped samples and looping vocals over a winding, chaotic six minutes.  Death Grips have not formed anything less challenging than their previous work, but “Government Plates” is as equally rewarding.

Even when Death Grips don’t holistically hit the mark, like for the first time on “No Love Deep Web,” the experience is still more rewarding than most other albums coming out.  No group puts as much energy and raw power into their music, and their contributions are something to anticipate. One thing is for sure, Death Grips do whatever they want, and if other artists like what they hear, they follow.; Death Grips, unbeknownst to many, have their hands in shaping the future of what music can become.

Contact Matthew McMahon at        mmcmaho7@nd.edu