Death Grips - The Powers That B [Hip Hop / Experimental]
Never thought I would kick off the reviews this year in April, but the team has been swamped with school work on other projects. Thought I would like to jot down some thoughts on the "final" Death Grips album:
niggas on the moon
The first half of the double album technically "leaked" last year, but I will review it here because (i)it's part of a double album and (ii) it has only been physically released this month. The album uses samples of Björk for background, with barely any actual drums from drum lord Zach Hill. The album isn't as aggressive as Death Grips' earlier work, and barely shows any semblance to the second half of The Powers That B. The eight songs flow together as one large song with barely any segue moments between the tracks. As far as the songs go, some manage to stick in your mind, eg. Up My Sleeves and Black Quarterback, but for the most part, the album plays more like background music. It isn't actually chill background music either because MC Ride's vocals are anything but chill. Björk's vocals are employed as trippy atmospherics, so the album has a bit of a trance like feel, wildly punctuated by manic shouts. Overall, not one the Grips' strongest albums, perhaps even their worst.
The much better half of the album, almost every song on the album is gold. The soundscape has changed quite a bit with distorted guitars, live drums and more manic vocals (almost like punk rock). The lyrics are also absolutely quotable ("I like my iPod more than fucking!!"). Jenny Death is surprisingly not only accessible in terms of sound, it is also probably the first time I have been able to emotionally connect with the band. The album's final actual song is 'On GP', quite possibly my favourite Death Grips song of all time. It has elements of shoegaze and sticks out sorely from the rest of the album, almost coming off like a ballad. It's a grand swansong for the band, with its foreboding lyrics "It's been a pleasure, Stefan (the vocalist's real name)" or "All these nights I don't die for you". Zach Hill is also on fire on this album when he finally lets loose with his neo-jazz-metal assault on the drums. Seriously, check out his solo work, his drumming is on par with the best in the world.
The album ends on a rather bizarre note, with 'Death Grips 2.0'. Is their break up just a PR stunt? Are they hinting of another return? Or is their way of saying goodbye? It's a mostly instrumental, futuristic sounding piece that does break new ground for the artistes' direction, but only time will tell if we will ever get more from this talented duo.