Death Grips - The Money Store - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Death Grips - The Money Store

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2012-04-23

Sacramento's Death Grips don't go out of their way to be likeable, or even listenable really. Whether you like them will depend on how much you enjoy extreme noise made by posturing, heavily tattooed men who look and sound like they could wrap a bike chain round your neck soon as say 'hello'. Basically, are you a teenage boy who's angry at his parents, or are you a full-grown male on the outside, hormonal boy-man on the inside? If so, yes, this hip hop crew may well be for you.


Apparently, Death Grips are experimental - I mean, Bjork's a fan - but I have to say, they draw from a staggeringly limited sound palette. Pretty much every single track features zooming, sub-sonic bass, fuzzed-up noise in place of a melody and the ceaseless rants of Stefan Burnett, aka MC Ride, a man who looks and sounds like a vagrant going mental in a pharmacy because his forged prescription for more cough syrup has just been refused.


Listening to the whole of their second album, The Money Store, is like getting punched repeatedly in the face. After a while, you just register the fact you're getting beaten up, not the individual hits. It's hard to work out exactly what separates, for example, the anti-social lurch of 'Blackjack' and the basically identical sound of 'The Cage' or 'Lost Boys'. It's all just a big, ugly, bludgeoning noise. I'm sure that's basically the point, as it is with many hardcore and extreme metal acts, which Death Grips have more in common with than your average hip hop crew.


However, that's not to say there aren't moments which stand out here. When the production team of Andy Morin (aka Flatlander) and Zach Hill vary the sound a little, the results can really grab one by the short and curlies. 'Hustle Bones' is all lacerating noise on the verse, but throws in a staccato, stuttering, strangely sexy R&B vocal sample in the chorus. 'I've Seen That Footage' sounds like a great early 80s Gary Numan track played through a knackered sound-system. The following 'Double Helix' makes great use of space and echoing bell effects, while the closing 'The Hacker' surprises by actually being a dance track. 'Punk Weight', meanwhile, varispeeds a bhangra sample which, along with the clattering, a-rhythmic beats of 'Fuck That' suggest Death Grips have spent a fair bit of time studying the production on MIA's records.


The most obvious comparison one could make in hip hop would be with Public Enemy, but Death Grips lack the wide range of samples which The Bomb Squad drew on, while modern production long ago caught up with the pitch-shifting and distortion that made early PE records so astonishing. However, Death Grips main problem is MC Ride. His flow is so one-pace and monotone it's more like a stagnant pond. His unrelenting ranty-ness is the reason you can't help but start to tune Death Grips out after a while.


As for what he's saying - I don't know and I don't really care. Rappers have to make you want to listen to them, want to work out what they're saying. In this way they build a relationship with their audience that's quite intimate and unique, something a common-or-garden-variety singer can't do, since by singing a melody to music they deal primarily in emotion and not the info-dump of rap. Ride is just a guy shouting and, just like on the bus, I'm inclined to block it out.

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