Review: Death Grips – “No Love Deep Web”

October 9, 2012 No comments yet

“To Deep–perchance to Web: ay, there’s the rub, for in that leak of Death Grips what dicks may come when we have shuffled off this mortal major label, must give us press?” – Hamlet, probably.

The labyrinthine method that was implemented in the promotion, and eventual “leak”, of Sacramento hardcore-hip hop outfit Death Grips’ second major label LP (this year!) No Love Deep Web was emblematic of the band itself. Complex, yet loosely delivered. Sloppy, yet purposeful. And, above all, just straight up perplexing. First, there was the viral marketing that involved conspicuous audio files being tossed around their site (and my favorite deep web guilty pleasure, 4Chan’s /mu/ format.) Then, a stunt involving a New York City payphone, (they still exist here.) THEN, the group claimed to have had their album pushed back “till next year sometime”, to which Epic/Colombia responded with a “wait, wha–?” Lastly, as a presumptive end-game move, Death Grips released the album (with accompanying album art featuring an erect penis) for stream stating “The label will be hearing the album for the first time with you.”

Conspiracy ensued as to whether or not this was Death Grips playing the free press game — especially after allegations that Epic/Colombia took down their website was later debunked — and BitTorrent legal download numbers were reported in the (rather erroneous) ballpark of 30 million. And, while all of this is messy and tedious to follow and digest, it’s exactly the type of campaign that should coincide with an album (mixtape?) like No Love Deep Web. Our first glimpse of the album was “No Love”, a much more stripped down and analog effort in comparison to anything on their stellar early 2012 effort The Money Store. Stripped down to the point of justifiable comparison to Rage Against the Machine, and a sign of this album’s theme: visceral, yet relatively restrained.

Restrained should be read in the literal sense here, by the way. MC Ride has ramped up the usual claustrophobia and paranoia on No Love Deep Web with revelations like, “you live in hiding you’re climbing the walls. No privacy. I’m trying to survive, but I’m dying. Die with me!” on “World of Dogs” and, “call me crazy, but I swear my lines been tapped. In my glass house prepared for surprise attack. Realized I held the blade inside my back. Omega megalomaniac” on “Deep Web”. The lyrical abstraction that has been the veil for Ride’s isolating schizophrenia is no longer being played as metaphor. He’s addressing his evils directly, and it’s almost like watching a heroin addict confront the first of the 12 steps to recovery… While simultaneously tying off his final living vein.

The production here is so tempered at times, one might forget that this is the same trio that made “I’ve Seen Footage” or “Takyon” prior. The single clear sample is on “Whammy”, which is used sparingly for light inflections and hook layering. The only songs that prominently use Zach Hill’s percussion are the aforementioned “No Love”, “World of Dogs” and, possibly, “Lock Your Doors”. Otherwise, it’s all 808s and synth support. This actually works for the dry, empty aesthetic that Death Grips goes for so often. “Stockton” does this to near perfection, leaving MC Ride to holler (and then slip into a rare inside voice) with only a simple drum loop and static-y noise as a cushion. “Black Dice” does the same, but adds some arcade-ready melodies to counteract the violent imagery. Juxtaposition is a trick Death Grips tries out occasionally here that serves well, seeing that any flash of light in MC Ride’s lyrics is more than welcome.

Where the album falters is in its pacing. Every Death Grips release since their debut self-titled EP in 2011 has been an exhausting endeavor, but this is the first that actually sounds like it’d be more fun to hear live than experience individually on first listen. The garage-y feel of No Love Deep Web carries a bit of an inclusive feel to it that can alienate at times, like on the echoing “Hunger Games”, which is a great track, but doesn’t quite continue the energy rush that “Whammy” develops. Additionally, “Pop” is probably the weakest hook Death Grips has put together to date, which may or may not be purposeful considering the subject matter and title, yet still stifles momentum. For the first time in Death Grips’ catalog, I have an album I can point to for newcomers and say “this isn’t the one you’re going to want to start with”.

Still, No Love Deep Web is effective because of its disjointedness. It’s got the shaky, human touch of a grainy home video. Or a snuff film, at that. The phrase “watching me watching me watch them watch me” is repeated to punctuate the chorus on the final track “Bass Rattle Stars Out the Sky”, and seems almost revelatory when one considers the manner by which this album arrived to the public. Something about that line can’t be dismissed as run-of-the-mill paranoid musings. It’s poetic, but in the most shallow, meta sense of the word. And, in the forefront, is MC Ride screaming his ass off for, well, no apparent reason. Left to “grunt and sweat under a weary life”.