After the relatively quick fire double of The Money Store and No Love Deep Web, Death Grips have waited a year before dropping their latest release into our laps. As ever released with minimal fanfare and for free, Government Plates is as aggressive and abrasive as everything they’ve produced so far.
No controversial artwork this time, unlike No Love Deep Web’s infamous cock-adorned cover. The album opens in typical Death Grips style; broken glass and industrial synths with Zach Hill’s ubiquitous drumming. The first few tracks, ‘Anne Bonney’, ‘Two Heavens’ and ‘This is Violence Now (Don’t Get Me Wrong)’, all use a similar arpeggiating higher pitch of synth than previously found in Death Grips work. Arpeggiated synths are used throughout the album and it gives Government Plates much more of an identity than No Love Deep Web due to the memorable nature of the riffs.
‘Birds’ was the only track released before Death Grips dropped the album and it’s the weakest track. Sparse and loping, it loses a lot of the album’s momentum which takes a while to pick up after the next few tracks. The centre of the album (‘Feels Like a Wheel’, ‘I’m Overflow’ and ‘Big House’) features very little of MC Ride’s vocals which is detrimental to the album, as the beats are some of Death Grips’ most original and appealing since The Money Store. The entire album lacks the hip-hop influence of Exmilitary and The Money Store. Ride’s frenetic yelps and distorted vocals are pretty much forgotten on Government Plates. Hopefully this isn’t the new direction for the Sacramento trio because MC Ride and his distinctive flow have been a huge reason why so many people found Death Grips to be such an appealing entity.
Final track ‘Whatever I Want (Fuck Who’s Watching)’ is one of the best in Death Grips entire back catalogue. An insanely bright synth line reappears throughout a track that flips between pounding drums and lost-in-the-wilderness white noise. It’s hypnotic and confusingly the one Death Grips track that works brilliantly in a late night environment. It’s an interesting end with regards to how it might signpost their next move.
They haven’t evolved radically in their short lifespan but the subtle differences between each release are there to see. The Money Store had clear vocals and carried on the intensity from debut release, Exmilitary, nicely. Tracks like ‘Get Got’ and ‘Blackjack’ could have feasibly had radio play. No Love Deep Web was dark, sinister and hard to really get into. Government Plates is a lot more memorable thanks to the melody in the madness but the tracks are still very dense and hard to distinguish.
Death Grips are a challenging group; but not challenging in a Yeezus kind of way. Death Grips are abrasive and it’s almost impossible to find time to listen to them: early morning, late nights, train journeys, the office, the library are all times when I have had to skip listening to Government Plates as it is too intense. It’s a great album and rewarding but Death Grips have created a beautiful monster that only reveals its power at a mysterious twilight which is frustratingly hard to pin down.By Joni Roome