Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Death Grips

  • Exmilitary [Third Worlds download, 2011] ***
  • The Money Store [Epic, 2012] A-
  • No Love Deep Web [Third Worlds download EP, 2012] A-
  • The Powers That B [Third Worlds/Harvest, 2015] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Exmilitary [Third Worlds download, 2011]
Death-metal hip-hop for El-P fans who secretly wish the Insane Clown Posse wasn't so dumb ("Blood Creepin," "Klink") ***

The Money Store [Epic, 2012]
Nobody comes out and says Skrillex-as-Unabomber or Skrillex-sans-fun because Skrillex is uncool. But that's what it is: aggro keyboards by Andy Morin d/b/a Flatlander, spitfire raps by MC Ride d/b/a Stefan Burnett, and crazed drumming by Zach Hill d/b/a you-know-him-from-Hella. Hill gets the attention because you (may) know him from Hella, and also because he's always been a hyperactive math-rocker who carries many slide rules. But the key to this triad is Morin, known if at all as one of Hella's engineers. Excoriating as Burnett and Hill are, the real abrasive is Flatlander--the shrieking trills that attack from above toward the end of "The Fever (Aye Aye)," the armored vehicle gone haywire that is "System Blower." As for what exactly Burnett's so mad about, the booklet that comes with the physical is a great help, and anyway, why ask? In case you hadn't noticed, the title's a metonym for postmodern capitalism. A-

No Love Deep Web [Third Worlds download EP, 2012]
So maybe how you explain these guys is this: the Gravediggaz grow up--or get serious, which is not necessarily the same thing. Either way, who knows how they'll keep on keeping on--nonstop rage wears out fast even when it's mixed with the humor obsessives like this deny themselves. But on their third album in 18 months, independently released online with an obscene downloadable cover because the major they suckered into a contract refused to put it out so soon after the last one, synth maestro Flatlander adjusts one of the most compelling aural signatures in electronic beat music. There's more space in these tracks, and unlikely hints of sweetening both orchestral and distaff that come as laugh moments whether the lunatics running the asylum think they're funny or not. Their weak spot is sex, a theme that imbued with their rage occasions misogynist spew crueler and stupider than their parricidal spew. Were they really to grow up they'd sidestep it altogether. Or else get funnier as if they meant it. A-

The Powers That B [Third Worlds/Harvest, 2015]
Having outlived their modishness, the biracial art-rap-cum-ragecore trio release a double album that, as I once requested, sidesteps their sex-hating/fearing misogyny. This they achieve not by putting it aside altogether but by sticking it on one disc, based musically on "Björk's vocals (as found object)" har har, epitomized thematically by "Have a Sad Come BB" (pronounced "baby"), and entitled for confusion's sake Niggas on the Moon. Its longer opposite number, entitled for confusion's sake Jenny Death, is epitomized thematically by a breakneck Humvee of an opener called "Break Mirrors With My Face in the United States." They couldn't have anticipated Freddie Gray except in the sense that there'll always be another, the rare ragecore truism with undeniable truth value. But in this time of racist callousness, I find their all-purpose hostility and alienation apt and, sometimes, perversely satisfying--on "Pss Pss," "Centuries of Dawn," "Beyond Alive." B+