by Cameron Seibold
Death Grips’ relationship with the general public has been tumultuous and strange. Whether they are leaking their own album, getting kicked off a major record label, using a picture of their drummer’s genitals as album art, not showing up to their own shows or notifying fans of their breakup with a scribbling on a napkin, the group has had their fair share of controversy.
Along with the breakup was the announcement of a final release that would serve as the second part of the double album “The Powers that B.” But now that it’s been released, and followed by the announcement of a U.S. tour in 2015, it seems they may not have broken up after all.
So one begins to wonder if anything they do is with pure intentions, or if they are becoming a group that thrives on hype and controversy. That being said, the second half of their final double album “The Powers that B,” titled “Jenny Death” has finally arrived, and while it could never live up to the ludicrous and unnecessary amount of hype it’s gained over the past year’s wait for its arrival (I thought chants of “Jenny Death when?” would never cease), it’s a solid addition to Death Grip’s discography, despite the ever-rising amount of controversy inflamed by the band.
Whereas the band previously relied heavily on synthesized percussion and noisy distorted samples of just about anything, “Jenny” seems to have a major focus on live drums and even live instruments, featuring Nick Reinhart of Tera Melos on guitar and Julian Imsdahl (a friend of member Zach Hill) on guitar and organ. These new additions to the lineup seem to have influenced the sound of “Jenny Death” in a major way, nearly splitting the track list in two stylistically.
The album opens in a big, heavy, violent way on the first two tracks.
“I Break Mirrors With My Face in the United States” opens the floor with a breakneck tempo and gritty, dissonant synths supporting MC Ride’s schizophrenic lyrics. The second track, “Inanimate Sensation,” is also in a similar vein of previous releases, featuring live instrumentation, including chain saw-sounding synthesis and heavy-hitting vocals.
While it’s definitely the heaviest album since “No Love Deep Web” (the band’s third album), it has some songs that feel positively uplifting (“On GP,” “Turned Off,” “Beyond Alive,” “Centuries of Damn”). These are tracks that mostly involve the guitar work of guest members. Personally, I don’t think it’s a great fit. I enjoy it when artists try new things, and I’m glad they have, but on some tracks it just doesn’t work at all for an official Death Grips LP.
If it weren’t for MC Ride on vocals, “Beyond Alive” simply wouldn’t sound like the group in any way. If anything it sounds like more of a collaboration with the guest members and MC Ride; normally this would be fine, but it just doesn’t sound like an instrumental that should feature the harsh vocals that Ride typically offers. The flow is off, and it simply misses the mark.
What first attracted me to Death Grips was their approach to making music. An extremely talented math rock percussionist, a guy with a laptop and a relatively unknown hip-hop vocalist just sounds so much more interesting than the typical two-guitars-and-a-drummer setup that’s been the norm for rock bands for more than 60 years. I appreciate trying new things, but in my opinion the collaboration with Nick Reinhart and Julian Imsdahl is just too jarring of a mash-up for me to appreciate completely.
That being said, the tracks are still an interesting switch-up to hear for big Death Grips fans, and the songs that resemble their previous work are stronger and more interesting than ever.