Album Review: Death Grips- Government Plates

Jesus Fucking Christ.

What the fuck is the deal with Death Grips? Is this a thing people actually listen to? Is this music that people take seriously?

Since the widespread press the band has earned via their 2nd LP The Money Store, I’ve just made a point to stay away from them—the duo comprised of drummer Zach Hill and “vocalist” MC Ride. In sampling the band’s efforts, I just wasn’t my thing. And I feel like at this point, people may be just so enamored with the band’s HILARIOUS antics—dick pic artwork, leaking their major label album and thenleaking sensitive legal emails w/r/t said album leak, and booking shows thatthey never intend to play—that people say they “like” Death Grips because they like the idea of the band more than the shit the band is churning out.

Three songs into Death Grips’ fourth album, Government Plates, I’m having a hard time fathoming anyone really listening to this band earnest, and being like, “Yeah, I like Death Grips. Their music really speaks to me.”

Plates plays like a cut and paste sound collage put together by an angry teenager. The songs are frenetic, aggressive, unsettling, bizarre, incendiary, loud, obnoxious—I mean you get the idea. There’s nothing behind these songs—no meaning—aside from just the general desire to fuck some shit up. They aren’t smart or well written (often it seems like there is no writing involved); and contrary to the band’s “anti-establishment” posturing that they exhibit, Government Plates is not a political album, nor is it any kind of grand artist statement.

It’s just a bunch of dumb bullshit noises.

And you know what, don’t try to tell me that I just “don’t get it,” okay? Look, I listen to plenty of weird stuff.  I love unsettling, bizarre music just as much as the next person does. You ever been to a house show? You ever stand in a basement and watched someone with black tattoo ink covering both of their arms perform a noise set wherein they just fucked with a bunch of pedals for, like 20 minutes, creating the most awful sounding wall of distorted, punishing feedback?

Well I have. And it was awesome and enjoyable because it was REAL experimental music.

Death Grips on the other hand—fuck. This is just bad you guys. It’s not special. It’s not interesting. It pushes well beyond music that’s designed to test your patience.  Death Grips will wear out your patience faster than a toddler in a toy store. Distorted shouty shouts, compressed sounding drums, and wonky synth noises make “music,” sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s good music. That doesn’t mean that this does anything when you hear it.

Government Plates’ opening track—“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”—serves as bit of a thesis statement for the chaos that ensues throughout the rest of the album:

Get so fuckin dark in here
Come come fuck apart in here
I die in the process
You die in the process
Kettle drum roll hard shit
Fuck I said fucker don’t start shit
Come come fuck apart in here

Well, MC Ride is right—I did die in the process of listening to this album. That’s right. Death Grips is so terrible that I died, and my ghost is the one finishing this review.

Hey, you know, maybe I’m just too old for this music. Like, I hate going to concerts—standing, staying out late, etc. So maybe Death Grips is music for young people—maybe Death Grips is even the VOICE of young people—young people who have so many important things to say. And I’m just too old to full grasp how important this all is.

While listening to Government Plates, attempting to understand the draw to something so vapid, another thing I can’t wrap my brain around is the critical love for this band—specifically Pitchfork, who cover this band’s every move and write every piece with a healthy coating of jizz on it. Talented P4K staff writer Ian Cohen recently was blessed with the task of reviewing this album, to which he bestowed an 8.4, and knighted it with the three words EVERY hip band wants to hear: “Best New Music.”

As indicated earlier, this isn’t political album—and Cohen is quick to point out how it’s almost a “Chose Your Own Adventure” album to soundtrack your own impulses. He writes—

Government Plates isn’t here to teach you a lesson… (it) lets you think for yourself and even if it doesn’t have an agenda, that doesn’t mean it’s nihilistic.  It’s music that doesn’t care about how you feel, just how you react to it…Death Grips provide the power, you provide the politics.

Government Plates closes with the even minute “Whatever I want (fuck who’s watching.)” The title alone sums up Death Grips and their entire manufactured “punk rock” affect—they will do, in fact, whatever they want.

Put a picture of a dick on their album cover? FUCK WHO’S WATCHING. Leak their album for free and subsequently get into a pissing contest to see how quickly they can get dropped from a major label? FUCK WHO’S WATCHING. Book shows, only to have no intention of playing live—leaving a bunch of hipsters to stand around in a venue while the band’s own music plays on an iPod somewhere, and a child’s drum set is left on stage as a prop? FUCK WHO’S WATCHING.

And Ride drives it home with this simple lyric—“When I spit on your face, you’ll take what you can get.” There’s no question that Death Grips are just putting on an act—this is “performance art” for the sake of “art.” Government Plates could be an album of Zach Hill farting on a snare drum, while MC Ride reads names out of a phone book. As long as the duo remains confrontational, it seems that listeners will continue to take what they can get.


  1. I have only two comments:

    1. I am now making it my goal to form a band wherein one member farts on a snare drum while the other member reads names out of a telephone book. I shall call it, "Trapper Sneaker (Conquers the Dickeyville Grotto)."

    2. This Death Grips thing sounds terrible.


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