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Death Grips
Government Plates James Ubaghs , November 20th, 2013 09:36

For a while it was easy to start wondering if the wheels hadn't fallen off Death Grips' Mad Max-style blood-encrusted survival bus. Almost exactly a year ago they unceremoniously leaked their third album to the internet as a response to their major label Epic wanting to delay its release. Death Grips then went and published private correspondence from the label, which unsurprisingly led to the band being swiftly dropped.

All this led to much online discussion of whether Death Grips actions were punk rock provocation at its finest, or mere snot nosed juvenile self-destruction (admittedly there is a very thin dividing line between the two). Yet listening to No Love Deep Web it's hard not to think that Epic were right - the album should have been released later, and it needed more polish. It was stripped back and minimalistic to the point of tedium, and while it did have its moments, it was still a step down from the kaleidoscopic adrenaline-doused fury of the groups' finest work. They've since then been purposefully failing to turn up to their own gigs for shits-and-giggles - say what you want about James Chance punching audience members in the face back in the day, or Suicide inciting riots in across Europe, at least they bothered to turn up.

To further add to the oddness they've been seen hanging out with teen idol R Patz, yes you heard me R Patz. Not that there's anything inherently wrong in spending time with Robert Pattinson, for it's just as my old man used to say; “If he's good enough for David Cronenberg, then he's good enough for you”. It's a rule of thumb applicable to all aspects of life. In any case things were getting ever more surreal and unlikely in the Death Grips camp.

Here we are a year on, and Death Grips have pulled another – perhaps predictable- surprise by releasing a new album for free and with absolutely no fanfare or build-up; a move especially refreshing in a year that's seemingly been one never-ending online PR hype campaign for flawed come backalbums from recently canonised acts. Even better than any sense of pleasant surprise is the fact that Government Plates just happens to be very fucking good. It defiantly justifies all their past bullshit; when you can put out albums this intense, this raw, and this interesting, than none of the rest matters.

First things first, it's still the same old Death Grips sound overall. It's the same particular brand of ferocious unclassifiable punk/rap/noise/whatever that still feels more keyed in to the present than most other contemporary groups in our current musically backwards looking age. MC Ride's paranoid, politically-charged ravings might not present any sort of solution to the world's myriad ills, but he is at the least paying close attention to how fucked things really are, and that's more than you can say for a lot of his contemporaries. The abrasion and rage Death Grips offer continues to feel so very necessary.

Yet where No Love Deep Web felt flat and homogenous throughout, Government Plates on the other hand is bursting with kinetic energy and texture, and never focuses on one particular sound for overlong over its economical 36 minute run time. It's that sense of ever shifting energy and momentum that characterizes Death Grips best work and it's a relief to see it returned to.

One change is that Flatlander's gutter trash electronics are further forward in the mix, while being a little deeper and fuller on the production side of things. At times it mirrors the oddly danceable nature of past tracks like 'I've Seen Footage' and 'Hacker', while feeling far more demented and unhinged. For instance album closer and highlight 'Whatever I Want (Fuck Who's Watching)' cycles rapidly between woozy fist pumping come up, and even woozier pits of despair come down. Its intense emotional ping-ponging sounds like little else that comes to mind. The rest of the album continues in that same vein of eye popping electronics and primordial yet unconventional drums against by that ever present current of existential angst and paranoia. If you were to have a psychotic breakdown in the midst of a Tiger Tiger bar on a Saturday night then this would be the music playing at full pelt in your diseased brain.

Death Grips may have got up to some questionable antics in the past year; they may very well be utter bastards in their day-to-day lives. They may be playing a calculated game with their media chicanery, or maybe they just don't think things through that much. None of it really matters though because based on this album they can still absolutely deliver.

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