Ah, Death Grips. A band you blast because your parents hate it, your friend’s cool friend rants endlessly about their brilliance and the critic’s love ‘em, going so far as to question if they are “the most important band to arrive this century.”
They’re highbrow for the underground–huge walls of noise, abrasive beats, vicious lyrics yelled and then buried behind big, distorted synths, barely digestible but undeniably art. Right?
They aren’t sell outs because they intentionally sabotage themselves and alienate their cultish fans, who proceed to eat it up. It’s not like anyone in music has ever utilized shock value to get attention, right? Most everything’s been done, and originality, while applauded, is sometimes less important than something being done well. So how well did Death Grips do on Bottomless Pit?
They’re highbrow for the underground–huge walls of noise, abrasive beats, vicious lyrics yelled and then buried behind big, distorted synths, barely digestible but undeniably art. Right? They aren’t sell outs because they intentionally sabotage themselves and alienate their cultish fans, who proceed to eat it up. It’s not like anyone in music has ever utilized shock value to get attention, right? Most everything’s been done, and originality, while applauded, is sometimes less important than something being done well. So how well did Death Grips do on Bottomless Pit?
It’s not like anyone in music has ever utilized shock value to get attention, right? Most everything’s been done, and originality, while applauded, is sometimes less important than something being done well. So how well did Death Grips do on Bottomless Pit?
Opening with an awfully cute female acapella, “Giving Bad People Good Ideas” immediately breaks into an assault of relentless drums, choppy processed guitar noise and MC Ride’s indiscernible, druggy rant, only to be broken up by the vocal hook and tasteless metal guitar riffs. Interestingly enough, there are a few surprisingly catchy breaks between the madness before it all stops with an echo.
Before you have a chance to breath, brain blasting beats introduce “Hot Head,” an intentionally off-putting, scattered mess that sounds like the band hit fast-forward on Come to Daddy era Aphex Twin and a Black Sabbath cassette, playing them together and recording the results while Ride desperately shouts “blo blo blo blo” nonsense over the din.
Once they’ve tested your patience, they casually drop into a heavy groove which is slow enough to let Stefan actually say something before they go back to the racket. They do a lazy back and forth between the two sections, and though they are clearly proud of the track, using it as a middle-finger single promoting the album, it’s the longest song on the record and would be twice and effective if it were cut in half.
“Spikes” hides some cool beats and fun one-liners under jittery, super fast DnB beats and run-of-the-mill Brostep basslines, while the hook is merely the word “spikes” repeated ad infinitum. While the inclusion of choruses and melodic synth lines is a nice change, it’s jarring, unremarkably commercial (or as close to it as Death Grips could be) after the overly-experimental “Hot Head.” It feels like the band had to prove they could still be hard, off-putting and artsy on the opening tracks before lazily recycling the same tricks through the rest of the record.
Bottomless Pit is certainly the group’s catchiest collection since The Money Store. But this time round, the majority of the tracks have been reduced to bassy bangers with the occasional glitch break thrown in to remind you that it’s Death Grips, as many of the songs could easily be mistaken for a number of other artists–from the tired Trap hi-hats on “Bubbles Buried in this Jungle” to the song’s slow, boring macho chants of “fuck if I ever let a bitch get used to me” and “fuck weak/no respect.” Yawn.
These repetitive, one or two-word choruses get stale quick, and would be welcome if they didn’t force their way into more than half the tracks, distracting from the otherwise appealing shifts in rhythm and noise.
The few direct statements made are bland and “been there,” and any sense of wit, substance or imagery is supplanted by aggressive obscenities that are more bark than bite. An art-history major might praise “Trash” as “a statement on the disposable nature of art and culture in an over-stimulated society of consumers,” when in reality, it’s nothing more than a mediocre beat, lazy repetition, overplayed social statements and a light layer of “weird” to maintain the artistic integrity of the group.
“Houdini,” suffers the same fate without even trying to make a point. Instead, the chorus is an immature cheap-shot at a trendy try-hard, saying “Fuck, is that a hairstyle/This asshole be at pussy church.” With 4 solid albums, a handful of EP’s and an impressive reputation, you’d think the band would have more to offer than empty insults on a stranger’s haircut.
Stefan Burnett (Aka MC Ride) is quickly adopting the lazy habits and styles of every other mid-level rapper, relying more and more on one-liners and repetition to keep people engaged (which is sad, given his often interesting stream of conscious rants).
On Bottomless Pit, Burnett’s once unique diction and delivery is too often morphed into close approximations of other famous MC’s, like Earl Sweatshirt’s simple, strung out stream of conscious on “Warping,” the laid back Snoop-ish bars on “Trash” and Pac’s distinct, low bellow on “BB Poison.”
The problem is, despite the affectations, the lyrics rarely match the emotion, style or importance of the aforementioned artists.
The album certainly isn’t without its interesting bits, and surprisingly, many of the better moments are when they stop gnashing dentures and relax in their well-deserved aura of cool, allowing a sense of dynamics to make the tracks exciting.
“Eh” basks in its simplicity, with a looping synth that sounds like it was ripped from an early Baths tape, a mellow, sped up groove that allows Stefan to flow freely, exploiting modern apathy to comment on mediocre one night stands and the empty nature of celebrity.
“Ring A Bell” opens with gentle IDM rhythms that make the crushing Industrial drones all the more effective, while the dynamic breaks and (cheesy) Ratatat style guitars offer enough variety to keep the listeners attention.
Moments later, “80808” creeps in with its haunting, minimal atmospheres that provide a contrasting backdrop to Ride’s brutal performance, making for some of the softest and most potent moments on the album.
Unfortunately, “80808” is painfully similar to “Eh” while “Ring A Bell” shares a few too many similarities to the title track, while songs 6-10 are all easily interchangeable. You could argue that it’s cohesion, but I call it recycling.
Clearly, the band are trying to balance their brand of try-hard avant-garde with the big basses and boring hooks that festival frat-bros expect, but unfortunately, neither is done well enough to keep me engaged.
Instead, the majority of the record relies on harsh volume, well-tread vulgarity and jejune hooks to excite the listener, which makes for a flat and tired listening experience.
Despite its many attempts, Bottomless Pit fails to shock, awe, provoke fresh thought or provide laughs. While it has some fun moments, cool grooves, a handful of brilliantly out-there verses and some insane sounds, the album is neither very good nor very bad, leaving the audience with the inevitable “eh.”