Death Grips – ‘Government Plates’

Terrifying and innovative album from the masters of uneasy listening is a tough but engaging listen

Sometimes Sacramento doom-rap act Death Grips seem like a lavish comedy creation, or one of Brass Eye creator Chris Morris’ parodies. Here is a band who released last year’s ‘No Love Deep Web’ album with a picture of drummer Zach Hill’s erect penis on the cover, who deliberately planned a no-show at a Lollapalooza aftershow this August, and in whose name a statement was released about a movie they were making about male prostitution, with Twilight’s Robert Pattinson (the band subsequently denied responsibility for this). Yet in spite of their ludicrousness, or maybe because of it, Hill, Stefan ‘MC Ride’ Burnett and producer Andy Morin (aka Flatlander) remain so exciting. Who else gives away new albums for free and with no warning whatsoever? Who else signs to a major label then gets ditched for leaking their own music? Who else makes such a terrifying, innovative and intense sound?

Continuing their ascent to the pinnacle of uneasy listening, Death Grips’ third album ‘Government Plates’ is their most challenging yet. Their debut ‘The Money Store’ hosted traditional thug-club bangers such as ‘I’ve Seen Footage’ and ‘Hacker’, but there’s nothing on their third album halfway as conventionally melodic. Instead, it has more in common with the bleakness of ‘No Love Deep Web’. Unsurprisingly, the murky grime of the record’s opening track – which boasts the epic title ‘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’ – has little in common with Bob Dylan aside from the natty headgear reference. Instead, centred around a triumphant shout of “Freelance motherfucker!” from MC Ride, it binds together shattering glass and evil electronic squalls to create an unapologetically raw rebel yell. ‘Two Heavens’ offers further statements of intent, as Ride offers up a solemn “Fuck your idols/Suck my dick” over polyrhythmic clatters.

Despite its lyrical opener of “Fuck you”, ‘Birds’ – the first taster of the LP – is perhaps the most welcoming track. A more coyly paced offering, it’s heavy with drunken funk, and MC Ride seems to momentarily reel in his rage. ‘I’m Overflow’ is more of a slam poetry performance than a song, with Ride spitting incendiary stanzas at will.

Death Grips don’t just refuse to play the game, but kick the board over, throw the counters in the air and order you to stuff the dice up your arse. ‘Government Plates’ is a challenging listen, but as one of the most transgressive records of the year, would you expect anything less?

Leonie Cooper