Still as angry and paranoid as ever, Death Grips erased some of the blowback from their famed performance art no-shows by surprise-releasing Government Plates last Wednesday (November 13) for free. As a major Zach Hill fanboy, I hate to say it, but maybe they could use to slow down a bit on the output. In two years, they’ve released four albums. And it shows a bit.
They’ve publicly declared their preference of recording to the monotonous touring slog that predictably follows album and press cycles, and they’ve got a well-documented case of extreme reclusiveness, so it makes sense. However, while Government Plates is at least as jarring as any previous release, the album avoids the hooks that kept you listening while neck deep in their signature pit of aural steel wool hip hop.
Perhaps that’s their aim, since it’s the only way left to catch us off-guard – for one thing, digital apathy age blah blah blah, but also, as this is DG’s fourth release, we’ve got the idea by now. Sometimes they try some different tactics, like the sprawling jazz chords on the title track. But regardless, there’s never that subtle hook, buried under two tons of violence, which had always popped up across past albums.
Those hooks made even the most schizophrenic, druggy lyrics on past releases still feel like a chaotically liberating, supremely dark party. Without them, DG gradually have felt even more despairing, which they’ve also clearly stated as their headspace – while we all ate up The Money Store, the band notes that it wasn’t really what they wanted to create, getting closer with No Love Deep Web, and finally to their self-mindfucking goal here – Ride’s inner tension building to Vicodin-induced fingernail removing and multiple cannibalistic references on ”Anne Bonny:” [LISTEN]
On the downside, some sonic formulas are starting to reveal themselves. The stripped-down pill-popping crime of “Anny Bonny” sounds quite similar to the “Guillotine” [LISTEN] beat, and the bass barrage of opener “You Might Think…” [LISTEN] feels like the verses on “Come Up and Get Me” [LISTEN] with some added distortion.
The only hook of the album is the flickering electric guitar in “Birds,” which fittingly reflects the “blue bird” theme, ostensibly referencing Bukowski’s metaphor for vulnerability. It’s the sole instance of Ride reacting to his demons with sensitivity instead of aggression, although it ultimately gives way to more sex and violence [LISTEN]:
If their compulsive need to create and release records is their sole comfort, there’s no denying that they’re consistently as genuine as they espouse themselves. Their ‘come at me, bro’ mentality has slightly mellowed, as they realize they’ve “got tomorrow coming,” but they still won’t be hugging their knees in the shower anytime soon.