Death Grips dish out another steaming hot serving of music that sounds like a headache. In the best possible way.
Death Grips are a band with a storied history of ‘shenanigans’. Each album has had an accompanying culture that cements them as the beguiling living meme that they have become. Beginning with their debut mixtape Exmilitary being released for free, Death Grips quickly sought greater fish to fry, leaking No Love Deep Web on BitTorrent and subsequently being ejected from their label, not least for the album cover prominently utilising Zach Hill’s erect penis. Nearer to the present, the band are still confusing fans, journalists, and also themselves in their antics – breaking up and reforming, maze-like release structures, 22 minute long singles, neglecting to appear at concerts and ultimately releasing Year Of The Snitch, their most elaborate meme to date. Whilst being Death Grips’ most accessible work, it simultaneously manages to be their most vile, humorous and intriguing.
Year of the Snitch manages to sound like the musical equivalent of body horror – comparable to one of the Saw films in its voracious appetite for grossing out its consumers. Whilst off-putting to many, Death Grips’ particular brand of horror is as compelling and enjoyable as ever across its relatively compact 37-minute runtime. To help you through this musical nuclear fallout of an album, I have broken this review down into cosy categories based on several (meticulously calculated) factors such as aggressiveness, meme potency and vileness index. Come, take my hand, I will be your guide in these troubling waters.
Category One – Songs that you could comfortably play to one of the mutants from ‘The Hills Have Eyes’
Some of the songs from Year of the Snitch had to be released as singles. Presumably Stefan Burnett, Zach Hill and Andy Morin clubbed together whilst perhaps not out of their mind on Adderall and drain cleaner to compose these tracks, releasing them like Gremlins™ onto an unsuspecting public. The leader of the pack is ‘Streaky’, a song that has actual hooks, a beat, and discernible lyrics. This is highly unusual. Close behind is ‘Black Paint’, a song that sounds like what would happen if all your favourite nu-metal bands were thrown into a lift full of sewage and forced to make a Death Grips song against their will. The blast of raw sound and following instrumental that start this track proudly heralds its arrival – Death Grips are overwhelmingly proud of their monstrosity. Bless.
Category Two – Songs that would earn you a one-way ticket to detention if played to your secondary school music teacher
Before reaching the glistening, throbbing heart of ‘Year of the Snitch’ we must take a detour through its putrid jungle of tracks that oscillate between somewhat listenable and absorbingly horrific. Tracks like ‘Dilemma’, ‘Flies’ and ‘Death Grips is Online’ (the former featuring the producer of Shrek. The producer of Shrek) prompt many fascinating questions. How does this music smell bad? Why do I now feel like I need a shower? How have I become desensitized to looking at this album cover? Why is there a track called ‘The Horn Section’ in the middle of all this mess, that features no horns of any kind, and sounds like the whole album reversed and played at 2x speed through a speaker made of rubber and bone marrow? Why is there a spoken word passage from the producer of Shrek? The producer of Shrek? These questions are sadly left unanswered. The tracks, however, do not disappoint in any sense – featuring all manner of warbling basslines, jittering electronics, and frontman MC Ride’s wonderfully diverse vocal abilities. Down the spiral we go.
Category X – Songs that sound like the lost final album of fictional supergroup ‘Danny Dyer’s Chocolate Homunculus’
Leave before it’s too late. These songs are ugly. The video for ‘Shitshow’ tells all – namely in its removal from YouTube due to obscenity – it sounds like Death Grips are getting ‘carried away’ with this song– something worryingly difficult to achieve. The intro to the track somehow features wonderful comedic timing, and the rest lives up to its namesake. ‘Little Richard’ sounds like Fuck Buttons were put through a demonic salad spinner, and ‘Dissapointed’ has a similarly carnivalesque je-ne-sais-quo about it – perhaps comparable to a ride you want to get off for fear of puking, or a night on some bargain basement LSD. Songs like this question your sanity on an existential level – what troublesome chain of events has led to a point in which I find this more than just bearable, but enjoyable? It leads to only one conclusion – that over the years, Death Grips have perfected the formula for music that is horrifyingly beautiful.
There are, of course, tracks that I have left out from this categorisation process due to a mixture of exhaustion and lack of critical vocabulary. Notable highlights of the remainder include the chittering vocal samples of ‘Linda’s In Custody’ (with a hook to vile for print) and the sickening sensation of falling that arises from repeat listens of ‘HaHaHa’. There’s a certain level of ‘they actually did it, the absolute madmen’ that drips from every crevice of the album, but regardless of the hype train gently chugging behind it, ‘Year of the Snitch’ holds water – the pinnacle of the toxic gas cloud of Death Grips’ discography, an equal to ‘The Money Store’ in its hellish blend of listenability and its opposite.. I’ve rambled plenty about this album, possibly passing it off as more meme than music – or perhaps more seriously as an exercise in oddity rather than any kind of serious musical project, but this is simply not the case. Death Grips remain at the forefront of the field they have created for themselves – the holy trinity of Zach Hill’s virtuosic drumming, Andy Morin’s ecstatic synthwork, and MC Ride’s schizophrenic vocal delivery is as potent as ever, ready to surprise and indulge its listener at every possible turn. The 1-2 punch of ‘Outro’ (not the last song on the album) and ‘Disappointed’ completes the picture of Year of the Snitch as the psychotic episode that it truly is – a virulent strain of 100% effective birth control that rattles, lurches and spews its way into the ear canals of its bemused and terrified listener. It’s a tremendous, pus-filled boil of an album that threatens to burst under the weight of its own ambition and weirdness – and for that, it is a triumph.
Year of the Snitch is out now via Third World Records
(or, if you’d rather, on YouTube. Every song was released as a single. Thanks Death Grips)