Death Grips – The Powers That B
Death Grips are less a musical act and more of an experimental piece of performance art with a noise-hip-hop component. Having built a rapid and rabid following since their debut mixtape Exmilitary, the group has followed a narrative that seems more punk rock than anything else. Signed to Epic, they wallowed in major label cash so much they named their debut The Money Store, and proceeded to shop around a wilfully noisy, alienating album whose sole concession to mainstream hooks was the paranoid “I’ve Seen Footage”. They quit touring abruptly to work on the follow up, No Love Deep Web, which they released to the internet without asking their label for permission first (also, the cover art was the title written on one of the group member’s penis). After Epic dropped them they released a third album, Government Plates, and managed to wind up on another major label, this time Capitol’s Harvest Records. After announcing a double album, they self-released the first disc, Niggas On The Moon, and then announced that they would break up after the full release of the second half, Jenny Death. This spawned the invigorating-and-then-annoying “Jenny Death When?” meme, spurred on by the band itself when it was revealed that the tracks on an instrumental self-release, Fashion Week, spelled out “JENNY DEATH WHEN”.
It’s Jenny Death Now, finally, and the meme can finally die. The Powers That B is a fitting “end” to the group’s legacy, a double-disc set of the best stuff they’ve ever committed to digital space. Niggas On The Moon, which has been out since June of 2014, is easily their most experimental work, played entirely on the Roland V-Drum and featuring Bjork vocals as “found sound”. Stefan “MC Ride” Burnett sounds more lost and paranoid than ever when the layers of heavy noise that characterized their previous work are stripped away. It may be, as some have opined, “shouting hobocore”, but his drugged-out rantings and fractured, angry, politically-charged viewpoint seem even more on point with the eerie instrumentals present on the first disc. The second, the long-awaited Jenny Death, brings the group back full circle to the punk rock sampling days of Exmilitary. Here the guitars are live, churning against the industrial-noise soundscapes and jutting off sparks. “I Break Mirrors With My Face In The United States” sums up the bands aesthetic in the best way possible; “Inanimate Sensation” and “On GP” bring out a newish direction in their sound, making them seem simultaneously more relatable to more normal metal sounds while showing off their stark divide even more. “Death Grips 2.0” ends the album with savage beats that trip over themselves, like drum n bass tracks that have been rammed together and looped. The title is fitting, since the day Jenny Death leaked the group hinted that they might make some more music after all. If they continue on with the progression that they have shown here then I’m all for it – Jenny Death shows a band still willing to play games with the major label world and confound expectations.