Alternative hip-hop trio Death Grips sound like they belong on the soundtracks to movies like “Kids” or “Requiem for a Dream.” Doomsday cacophony crashes in all directions, spreading dark messages of lust, drug-derived insanity and political agitation — the perfect accompaniment to any happily-never-after movie.
Last year’s full-length mixtape Exmilitary fed on listeners’ curiosity and jeopardized their sanity, attacking them with an onslaught of warped beats and maniacal screams and shouts. Now, the group returns with the follow-up to that album, The Money Store.
Do not think the trio has lost their abrasiveness in signing with major label Epic Records; they’re as intimidating as ever. Album opener “Get Got” reminds listeners of why Death Grips is so appealing. Schizophrenic synths pop and explode in every direction, as lead singer MC Ride relies on a vocal delivery caught in between experimental and southern hip-hop. The song puts up an impressive facade, fooling listeners into thinking the trio has chilled out from their anarchic ways before the rest of the album hits them like a brick to the face.
“Hustle Bones” is the bastard child of Waka Flocka Flame and Nine Inch Nails. Backed by catastrophic, rev-up-your-engine synths, Ride’s raspy declaration hits hard. It works as a reflection of the band’s hardcore punk attitude and hip-hop swagger, relying more so on the former to fuel their hostile sound.
“I’ve Seen Footage” has underground club scene hit written all over it. Using what sounds like samples from Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It,” the song is like a needle full of adrenaline, and Ride is a paranoid mess: “Creeps up behind me/over my shoulder,” he yells. Each song is another step into Death Grips’ dark and twisted world. Unlike Exmilitary though, The Money Store shows the group relying on a more pop aesthetic in their songwriting.
For the most part, each song follows a verse-chorus-verse direction that, of course, is done in a Death Grips-y way. The songs will still take you through tunnels of gritty mystery that will have you questioning your sanity, but at least you will know where you’re headed.
Another great aspect of the songs are the hooks. Producer Andy Morin, aka Flatlander, and drummer Zach Hill are at their best; the cohesiveness between electronic minimalism and acoustic drums is at an all-time high on this album. Take “The Cage” for example; siren-like sounds provide the melody, while Hill’s punchy, thrash drums segue into a bass-drop chorus that would leave even the most drop-the-bass devotees frightened.
“I’m in your area,” Ride repeats on album-ender “Hacker.” Lock your doors, shut the blinds and brace yourselves — Death Grips is back and they’re on the prowl.
Printed on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 as: Sophomore album keeps momentum