FLEBB Reviews Death Grips’ Bottomless Pit

If you are, or were, a Death Grips fan give this a go, if only for the album’s highlights. It’s a good collection of tracks that never quite comes together to be a greater whole. If you’re new to the band start with The Money Store, its hard to beat.

I joined the Death Grips craze like many others with The Money Store and its still an album that I hold up as being potently aggressive. I’m a 5′ 8″ young chubby guy but listening to it now on the high street still makes me want to start fights with everyone I see. It continues to stand up because it had a lot going on, some brilliant production and experimentation mixed with some genuinely catchy hooks. Since then I’ve dropped off a bit. No Love Deep Webb sounded like The Money Store Part 2, and felt tired for it. Lightning in a bottle and all that. I lost a lot of enthusiasm after No Love, and only proceeded to keep up with the singles. The bits and pieces I did hear sounded like a respectable departure from their previous work, with the concentration once again on experimentation. While respectable, unfortunately they quite often came off laughable such as inanimate sensation:

It has some genuinely good moments but that eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee sounds like a child pretending to be a car, hardly threatening stuff. They may have been experimenting but the actual sound seemed more like novelty. In their defence I never gave these albums the time they deserved and I can certainly see myself returning to these and finding that that sense of novelty was down to me.

Despite not really listening to Death Grips in this period I still managed to hear a lot about them thanks to their antics. They’re a band that’s always enjoyed playing with the expectations laid upon them but this started to sound like a cry for attention. Between serial no shows at concerts, cryptic announcements and short lived termination they’ve managed to stay in the music press. You could argue that its within the remit of the punk art aesthetic and that these antics are about the cult of celebrity. Alternatively you could argue that they are within that cult, attempting to garner fame and money by way of attention. Either way the outcome is the same and they’ve unquestionably played the game well, and besides, it’s not like they’re the first punks to fuck about with they’re audience for their own gain.

Anyway, onto their 5th studio release: Bottomless Pit. Right off the bat I think they did a great job with the album cover. It’s super simple but  there’s something simultaneously off putting and sexual about it. Obscuring all but the mouth like that, along with the use of white on black, creates a weird ghost image sensation where you’re constantly guessing at whats underneath. I like it and I’m not quite sure why.

Now for the album. Immediately we are met with female vocals, a nice change from the excellent MC Ride, something fresh. This is then offset with overblown repetitive thumping and Ride’s yelling. The aggression isn’t gone and it feels fresh and worryingly inviting again. This time with more instrumentation than I’m used to, what with the addition of guitarist Nick Reinhart. Zach Hill has also really come into his own as a producer. These tracks are certainly busy but it sounds like Hill is in control. What few lyrics I can make out seem to be a collection of stark disgusting visuals and warnings of something new. I can’t make much sense of it but it definitely sets the tone and it sounds like it makes all but too much sense to Ride.

Now we know what we’re in for we’re onto hot head the first single that was released. This is on the right side of experimental. Ride shouts nonsense but it doesn’t sound silly it sounds insane, and yet moments later the hook is there making me bop my head. It’s going for a loud/quiet, hard/soft, fast/slow thing which I’m a sucker for. Next is spikes. A bit weaker but keeps the pace from becoming exhausting. The song is saved by it’s hook which is reminiscent of that relentless repeating “it goes” hook from guillotine but without the “yah” release.

This is followed by warping which sounds a bit more maturely self conscious and is a good lead into the highlight of the album, Eh. This is a great look into apathy in its many forms. Both that bred by celebrity and the more nihilistic. It feels honest and its probably the calmest I’ve heard Ride (he barely shouts on the track). The production flickers around, feeling wonderfully distracted keeping pace with Ride’s loose vocals. It all comes together to really get at that sense of overwhelming bubbling frustration at nothing.

Unfortunately, this then signals the slow downturn of the album. The second half offers some more decent hooks, chaotic sounds and fucked up moods but by the end the album feels like it doesn’t know where to go and just kind of ends. It all gets rather exhausting. It’s not that the tracks are bad (except Trash and the 2 closers which are pretty weak), when heard individually they’re actually a pretty strong collection, but overall it all starts to blend together becoming rather non distinct.

I like this album, but its tauntingly close to something better. It’s stronger moments are excellent but with a limping second half, possibly brought down in large part by 3 forgettable tracks its hard to hold this up as something overly significant. I’d recommend it to those who might be a bit disillusioned with Death Grips to give them a second chance, but I wouldn’t choose it as an entry point. For all the extra instrumentation and bigger production, the self assured bravado and anger of The Money Store is hard to compete with.

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