Death Grips – Government Plates

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Mostly garbage, though the drumming throughout the 6/8 beat of “You Might Think We’re Intellectuals Because We Quote Bob Dylan In Our Song Titles” excites me and the detuned half-melodic/half-deranged guitar throughout “Birds” (played by Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame) might be their most exciting sonics ever. Sucks that MC Ride’s lyrics on that song are complete garbage, sucks that the alarm blare sounds identical to Shabazz Palaces’ vocal sample from “An Echo From the Hosts that Profess Infinitum” (just played on a synth), sucks that the coda exists at all.

But yeah, I have no use for this postmodernity for postmodernity’s sake bullshit. Tinymixtapes (I’d quote the author, but I have a theory that all the writers on that site are either just one person or connected in some inhuman hivemind way) claims that this music “avoids the desiccation and density of academic prose” (in a blaze of irony because the review unnecessarily quotes just about everything and everyone from Mein Kampf to Ayn Rand’s ramblings about Communism). It admits that the album “may not provide any explicit formulation on digitization and its ramifications” (how could it? The lyrics are vague bullshit) but concludes that “the torrentiality and instability of its mutant electro-industrial-noise screeds are a near-perfect complement to a world that’s been accelerated, distorted, fractured, and simultaneously fused by the explosion of the digital technologies that have grown out of it.” As evidence, it claims that the fast-paced “This Is Violence Now (Don’t Get Me Wrong)” “parallels the ceaseless influx and alteration of news stories, songs, film clips, advertisements, games, blogs, and other media […] that all mockingly exceed that same audience’s capacity for choosing between them in any meaningful, integrated, or non-arbitrary way.” Basically, according to Tinymixtapes, because of how complex and dense and fast this music is, it becomes much more than music: it becomes social commentary. By the same logic, Centipede Hz is Animal Collective’s triumph. Oh wait, that was a failure of an album.

Except, problem: this music isn’t particularly complex at all. I mean, am I the only one who noticed that the first half of “Anne Bonny”, the aborted intro of “Big House” and the majority of closer “Whatever I Want (Fuck Who’s Watching)” is nothing but synthesized and looped arpeggios? Am I the only one who thinks that the hook throughout “I’m Overflow” wasn’t worth repeating at all? Am I the only one who noticed that most of these songs (tracks 2, 5, 8, 10 and 11) are just a bunch of meaningless parts that’s been stitched together without a single iota of effort given to make them a gestalt? Thankfully, MC Ride is less present here than on any other proper Death Grips release, but his madman pose is as annoying as ever. And yeah, it’s a pose – just what is he railing against? That’s what I thought. Don’t believe me? Notice that the band’s solution to MC Ride’s vague government paranoia on “I’m Overflow” is to loop MC Ride yelling “dope” while they presumably go to the back and shoot some, which would explain the majority of these songs’ inability to sit still for more than a minute.

Kanye West’s Yeezus that same year, which sparked a lot of “Is he inspired by Death Grips” conversations, was by no means perfect, but the grotesque synths of – say – “On Sight” didn’t feel like a rich kid revolting against EDM (as a lot of the songs here do); it felt like a genuine incorporation of other sounds, and that missing factor highlights just how much Kanye West beat these guys at their own game.

Back to Tinymixtapes, “If [this] album were a girlfriend or boyfriend, it would probably break up with us via text message, safe in the knowledge that it won’t have to orient itself to our penetrable humanity.” Yeah, you’re right: this album is a fucking coward.

C

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