Music Reviews
The Money Store

Death Grips The Money Store

(Epic) Rating - 10/10

If for nothing else, The Money Store will be noteworthy for featuring perhaps the most unnecessary use of the "Parental Advisory: Explicit Language" label in its entire history. For a start the little monochrome killjoy is tucked away underneath an unapologetically crude sketch of a dominatrix and her (presumably) male yet mammary-endowed gimp. Secondly, of course The Money Store is ridiculously sweary, but anybody likely to be offended by a bit of bad language honestly won't last more than a minute into the assault of noise that comprises Death Grips' second album; if the potential purchaser should be warned about anything, surely it should be the record's potential to cause panic attacks/complete mental breakdowns.

Fortunately, there's a lot more of note about the record than just that. Last year's debut mix-tape Exmilitary induced a fair amount of excited chatter in certain sections of the music press (including here at noripcord), and it wasn't hard to see why: the shock of it's impact was akin to being smashed in the face repeatedly with a rock. Unfortunately that description also sums up how much fun it was to listen to. And, while this follow up is no less forthright in its screaming to get your attention, it does have something of a newfound melodic bent to it: perhaps as a concession to their new-found major label status (which makes that choice of cover even more jaw-dropping), Death Grips have gone pop...

...Well, sort of. This is pop that hasn't been so much re-appropriated as outright mutilated, so on first approach The Money Store still feels like an impenetrable blast of frantic garbling, but if persevered with elements of recognisable musical forms, specifically forms from the late 80s or 90s: drum n bass breakbeats here, stabs of rave, trance and even happy hardcore there; I've Seen Footage attempts to replicate bump 'n' grind electro, while being as close to sexy as being flashed by a bloke in a park.

It's probably no coincidence that these reference points are mostly from the period when the hip-hop moral panic was at its peak, as somehow Death Grips manage to make the genre seem alarmingly, thrillingly dangerous again. Given recent events, it's extremely tempting to attempt to take some poetic license and claim them as the heirs to the throne of the genre's original provocateur-pranksters, The Beastie Boys, what with their shared rock roots (in the Beastie's case it was their early days as a hardcore act, for Death Grips it's producer/drummer Zach Hill's day-job in math rock band Hella) and their vocals' occasional descent into frat-boy bellowing (although the psychotropic ping-pong of Get Got suggests that this is absolutely not music to "party" to). Truthfully though, what they most resemble, other than a punch-up in a recording studio, is Public Enemy's deliberately abrasive sampling work.

But where Chuck D's crew were resolutely political in everything they did, MC Stefan Burnett merely pays lip-service to racial issues, instead choosing to spend most of the time barking about nothing much in particular, and perhaps that's what makes them particularly relevant; what could better sum-up the Occupy Generation than an over-flowing of unfocused rage. Where (despite the occasional work of soul-searching artistic justification), hip-hop has mostly grown fat and lazy in recent years, thanks to its relentless materialism, Death Grips are lean and mad (in both senses of the word). Instead of borderline offensive product-placement, what can be found here is desperate “grab anything you can” opportunism with Burnett more than once warning us that “When you come out your shit is gone”, like a particularly shifty bouncer.

Maybe it's not actually meant to make any sense at all: perhaps it's just a work of impenetrable outsider art, or perhaps the odd choices of inflection that seem to shift from verse to verse (and even line to line) on a significant amount of the album indicate that it's actually an exercise in dadaist hip-hop, in which, much like the musical backdrop, Burnett's vocals have been hacked and reassembled into new twisted forms. The upside of this being that what's left is pretty much a non-stop supply of inspired non sequiturs, many of which are screamingly funny: closing track Hacker, in particular, sums up the best qualities of his writing/stream of consciousness babbling, whether in its lunatic ramble - throw up a black hole at the/entrance of linens n things/on the way/never call it a day/visit Tesla's grave for the/ninth time today - the punctuating sharp pop and consumer culture references - Gaga can't handle this shit, Make your water break/in the Apple store - that serve to lend an air of absolute nowness to the record, or the surprisingly camp smack talk - Soon your crew will be servin/sandwiches named after me/Vietnamese style fool, and catchphrase in the making - now we got/all the coconuts bitch (perhaps that cover image isn't the only gender-bending aspect of Death Grips' act?).

The Money Store might be the very definition of acquired taste, and will most likely alienate the vast majority who attempt to give it a spin, but it's undeniably an extraordinary record. It may even be an outright important one, marking that rare occurrence when a genuinely distinct musical voice reaches maturity (even though there's absolutely nothing mature about their music), while without fail managing to provoke, for good or ill, a visceral reaction in the listener, and with the listening to of music increasingly becoming a background detail to the indiscriminate grabbing or nerdy fetishisation of its acquisition, arguably that's a quality that's now just as rare.