Out of nowhere Death Grips are back. In the same way that last year’s No Love Deep Web appeared, penis cover and all, without any warning, this new record Government Plates has simply been thrown out there, completely free for anyone to download. This time every song comes matched with a dark lo-fi CGI video, and some spectacularly bizarre song titles.
‘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’ is this record’s opener and sets the tone for the whole album. Anyone familiar with their previous record will appreciate their development here. The oppressive minimalism that characterised No Love Deep Web remains but the songs aren’t afraid to recall the violent, explosive creativity of (at least in this reviewer’s opinion) their best record, 2012’s The Money Store.
For those unfamiliar with Death Grips, this is a difficult place to start. The Sacramento duo of MC Ride and Zach Hill (drummer of Hella, Team Sleep and more) make abrasive music, fusing industrial techno with distorted aggressive rap with really, really dark lyrics. Divisive at best, borderline tuneless at worst, they nonetheless have an important place in modern music as one of the few truly innovative bands around.
For some reason Government Plates’s best moments happen when the imposing vocals of MC Ride take a back seat to (presumably) Zach Hill’s production, as on ‘Feels Like A Wheel’ and the title track. Here the influences from dance and techno are the strongest and Death Grips come closest to sounding like a soundtrack to a nightmare, giving a sly nod to The Prodigy and Aphex Twin on their way onwards and upwards.
However it is ‘Birds’ that completely steals the show, the only song to have been revealed before this album came flying at us out of the blue this week. Even existing fans of Death Grips were taken aback by its twisted sound, somehow even more terrifying for its quieter peaceful sections.
For a band that cynics could see as hype-baiting and faux-punk, it’s easy to forget how good Death Grips actually are when they aren’t cancelling gigs or putting penises on their album covers. Fortunately Government Plates is a record that ensures that it’s the music by which they deserve to be known. Dark, alienating, abrasive, but brilliant.
Download: Feels Like A Wheel’, ‘Government Plates’