Music Reviews
No Love Deep Web

Death Grips No Love Deep Web

(Epic/self-released) Rating - 6/10

So let’s get this straight: Death Grips dropped The Money Store mere months ago to some of the best reviews of 2012, canceled an entire tour to work on No Love Deep Web, and then, when Epic Records wouldn’t give it a release date, they self-released it so that “the label will be hearing it for the first time with you [listeners]”? Yes, that’s all correct. And to add insult to injury, they even released it under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, so you or I could sell the work for money and hip Hollywood directors could use the music in their feature films without paying a licensing fee. Unsurprisingly, Death Grips kept instigating and were recently dropped by Epic. Oh, and don’t forget about the album art, which we can’t even show here and makes the album pretty hard for Epic to release for consumption in a profitable market.

If No Love Deep Web was the game-changing record that The Money Store was, this would all feel justified. But despite exploring new sounds in production, Death Grips occasionally sound like an exercise in self-parody. While the lyric “I’ve got some shit to say just for the fuck of it” off of Lock Your Doors could function as the group’s mission statement, the ultra-abrasive production is no longer new enough or surprising enough to match the power of the confession.

Indeed, some things never change: there’s plenty of shocking lyrics to raise your blood pressure. “Got the nasty in my taxi, you need a lift? You can sit between the back seat and my dick" is certainly as blunt as anything the group has ever put out, and considering their first proper album contains a song called Fuck That with lyrics vaguely alluding to a chaotic annihilation of fellow humans, that’s saying something. Quotes aside, the tracks aren’t as memorable as they want to be, but they’re undeniably thrilling.

In fact, that’s a template that applies for most of No Love Deep Web after it finds its groove. Opener Come Up and Get Me contains MC Ride’s unfiltered rap-rants over abrasive beats; it’s chaotic enough for Exmilitary but deliberate enough for The Money Store, and the call-and-response pre-chorus and repetitive crescendo in the chorus of Lil Boy and the absolute suffocation induced by No Love suggests that there is not a whole lot to fear. But after that, No Love Deep Web feels like it’s just a little too easy. The shocks become the motivator with the music as a mere medium instead of, as it was for the first two releases, the integrity of the music being shocking in and of itself. The production continues to get more and more spacey, but it never quite seems to hit the mark. Death Grips are clearly looking to be industrial/noise-rock where they were once hip-hop, but for all the intensity, it feels like nothing new. The messiness and anti-structure exhibited by most of the tracks is too easy for a band that seems to be trying so hard to be offensive. In the past, that they took themselves so seriously demanded that we did too, and they sounded like a group of angry youths with enough conviction and determination to start a revolution. On No Love Deep Web, they resemble a group just a bit too young and introverted to force us to watch them start a revolution.

However, after a streak of good but unmemorable songs, the final track, Artificial Death In The West feels as game changing as anything the group has put out before. In some ways, it’s Death Grips epitomized: The lyrics are expectedly vulgar, the crunch on the production and complex, syncopated rhythms as uncomfortable as you could ever want it, but the song is also strangely surreal and almost postmodern. The lyric “watching them, watching them watch you watch me” recalls a Modest Mouse lyric, and the title line itself is filled with different meanings and interpretations. It’s trippy, and it boasts the best spacey, ambient beats on the album; it comes strangely close to social commentary, alluding to escapism and anonymity in the digital age, and it closes the album with the promise of a new direction. It’s exactly what the whole album should be like and, at times, what the whole album wants to be. Unfortunately, Artificial Death is a bit of an anomaly, even for Death Grips, but if placing the track last is the group telling us that this is where they’re going, I’m on board, even if I am confused as to how they got there.

All in all, No Love Deep Web has all the intensity one would expect of Death Grips, but the attempts to shock overshadow the change in sound. Musical growth takes a backseat to offensiveness, and the urgency that made the group so great before is gone as traits have become gimmicks and parody. When this album hits, it hits hard, but for the first time in their career, the barrage is intermittent instead of constant. One foot takes a tremendous step forward, but that just makes the whole entity struggle for balance; the effort lacks the unity of The Money Store.