Before cancelling their tour to finish the second of two records to come out of the year (see how the other fared here), Death Grips were scheduled to play at Norwich Arts Centre. The fact that this band – once incredibly elusive, even in their motherland – were to play mere minutes away from my home was a surprise, but not the biggest to come out of it. As a converted Church (it’s architecture remains well intact), one couldn’t think of a more unsuitable fit for the band’s utterly dark and confrontational sound. It’s a beautiful mirroring of the events that were to follow: after cancelling the show (the entire tour, in fact), they also ended their recently established – and outright bizarre – major label relationship with Epic Records. In short, Death Grips don’t simply play on disparity, they revel in it.
The Money Store, the first offering to emerge from this relationship, is music of the most visceral manner – the kind of music that makes you want to rave and mosh in equal measure. The opening beat of Get Got makes The Prodigy sound like bubblegum-pop; its acid rave influence is given a harsh industrial edge, and it still remains the finest of all their 2012 output. As a whole, the record operates through these moments: complete perversions of seemingly ‘safe’ sounds and conventions. Whatever preconceptions you have about hip-hop, dance, rock, etc (delete as appropriate), leave them at the door; Death Grips at once embody everything and nothing about genre.
You think that doesn’t make sense? Take I’ve Seen Footage – an undoubtedly aggressive track, distorted beats and all. Except, wait – is that a SALT N PEPA SAMPLE?! It completely messes with your brain, and that’s exactly what Death Grips want. Not only does it work in fact, but MC Ride (Stefan Burnett) also manages to pull off one of the catchiest vocal hooks of the year in its chorus. The surprises don’t stop there: System Blower makes minimal dub sound like an electric chair, while Bitch Please rips reggaeton a new one. Meanwhile, closing track Hacker is a fully formed dystopian world, with MC Ride soliciting you to ‘break into an Apple store’ under a frantic siren. He couldn’t have said it better himself: ‘Gaga can’t handle this shit.’
Despite such a raw, harsh aesthetic, tags such as ‘experimental’ feel like a disservice to this outfit. The Money Store may be incredibly forward thinking, but there’s a remarkable self-assuredness to their sound that suggests that Death Grips are completely in control. This isn’t the first time that an unlikely pairing has emerged from an underground act and a major label, but never have the results been so uncompromising, so left-field, and so damn emphatic than in The Money Store.