Saturday 14 May 2016

Review of 'Bottomless Pit' by Death Grips

One does not simply dive into Death Grip’s discography this far into their career.

Having announced their breakup in 2014 (but continued to make new music since…), the Sacramento experimental hip hop/noise/punk group return with Bottomless Pit. I say this with each release but it’s true – Bottomless Pit is their most extreme album to date! Death Grips newbies shouldn’t start here – to do so would be to order a vindaloo in an Indian restaurant having never tried a curry before. You have to build yourself up with Death Grips and acclimatize yourself to the noisy beats and angry hobo shouting, all of which has predictably been shifted up an extra gear on this album.

How many more gears have they got left? Upon hearing lead single ‘Hot Head’, I thought perhaps the band had taken a step too far, resorting to cluttered cybergrind and lyrical gibberish. It wasn’t necessarily the abrasiveness that worried me, but the messiness.

Any musician can be experimental after all. Applying songwriting talent to that experimentation is another matter. ‘Hot Head’ simply didn’t seem to flow and I was worried the rest of the album would simply be, to use my favourite phrase, ‘noodling’.

However, the result could not be more the opposite. Yes, these are some of Death Grips most challenging and raucous and fucking intense numbers to date, drawing on every abrasive technique they've learnt so far. But - ‘Hot Head’ aside - the groove and catchiness has also never been this high.

To give some examples, there’s firstly opening track ‘Giving Bad People Good Ideas’, which might just be the most poppy track I know to include blast beats, sporting a punky female-sung hook that reminds me of The Runaways.  There’s electronic cranium-curdler ‘BB Poison’ that somehow manages to be more headbangable than  ‘Tak Yon’, ‘Come Up and Get Me’ and ‘The Powers That B’ combined. And then there’s ‘Three Bedrooms in a Good Neighbourhood’ that sees MC Ride offering some outrageously anthemic vocals, the likes of which I didn’t think he was capable of.

Sonically it continues to push boundaries, but the pretentions have been lifted. Death Grips aren’t out to impress anyone or get anyone stroking there chin this time, they’re here to have fun. Nowhere is this more evident than in the lyrics, in which the band humorously seem to mock themselves and their critics. ‘Trash’ is dedicated to all the listeners’ that think their music is trash, whilst ‘Eh’ is dedicated to all the listeners that think their music is, well, eh…

Songs seem to have actual themes, and aren't simply gobbledegook being passed off as poetry. After pretending to break up and not turning up to shows, I was starting to dismiss the band as assholes. But now, having just completed an extensive US tour (attending every single show), it seems the band are starting to think about their fans again, instead of incessantly trolling them for their own entertainment.

This is reflected in their music - the band relying on less self-indulgence, evening out their noisy experimentation with some straightforward fun. It seems they've finally perfected their style, taking the pop appeal of The Money Store and the cold industrial feel of No Love Deep Web, the electronic infectiousness of Government Plates and the guitar-driven punkiness of Jenny Death, and melding it all into a toxin that is both deadly and gripping - 'Death Grips' taken literally.