ALBUM REVIEW: Death Grips – Government Plates

Government Plates artwork
Government Plates artwork

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 11.36.33 AM

ARTIST Death Grips

ALBUM Government Plates

LABEL self-released

RELEASE DATE 13 November 2013

8.3 | 10

As far as beginnings go, there’s none better than the opening seconds of Death Grips’ new album Government Plates, where glass is heard shattering, before its shrapnel is sent piercing through the speakers and we’re off on a journey through barbed wire and scorched land. The basic M.O. for a Death Grips‘ album is well-known by now, as one could reasonably expect some assaulting electronica productions, courtesy of producers Zach Hill and Andy Morin, with Stefan Burnett, better known as MC Ride, rapping viscerally over the pummeling productions. Plates certainly adheres to that formula, yet their are a number a variable added to the equation, making this another stunning collection from the Sacramento collective, while also, dare I say, being their most accessible album to-date.

The opening “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” gets its title from Bob Dylan’s “Leopard-Skin Pill Box Hat,” which is about as close as the two musical entities get, as the track sounds like the aural equivalent of Jesse Pinkman’s gasoline-soaked rage in Breaking Bad’s fifth season. The succeeding “Anne Bonny” sounds downright heavenly by comparison, with twinkling synthesizers and distorted vocals prominently featured during the chorus. The song’s verses are a different matter, as grimy and bleak as anything else here.

This is Death Grips’ second consecutive album release without any pre-album fanfare, and it totally fits with what the band is doing sonically. The album flies by in just over 30 minutes, a flash of lightning whose electricity reverberates for days. The band very rarely stays in one spot for a considerable amount of time, rather they rely on their ability to jump from one disparate sonic landscapes to another to lure in their audience.

The best moment on Government Plates is the closing “Whatever I Want (Fuck Who’s Watching),” a surprisingly down-tempo affair for the noise-hop northern California collective. It’s a telling moment for the band, who thus far have shown themselves to be perfectly capable of performing high-octane industrial hip-hop, but have yet to show us the rest of their dimensions. “Fuck Who’s Watching” strips away the notion of this band being a one-trick pony, without every compromising the band’s essential qualities. It turns out what makes Death Grips so captivating isn’t the band’s shocking visuals or their explosive and guttural productions. Rather it’s the life-affirming emotional nakedness of the band’s tunes that makes Death Grips’ such a vital component of our musical DNA. While it certainly is difficult to love at times, Government Plates is never actively trying to abuse its prospective audience, instead pushing us to find the positives in the darkest and most primal aspects of this thing called life.

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