In an age where Black Flag t-shirts sell in Urban Outfitters, Jonny Rotten sells butter, and the Ramones have been reduced to a cultural meme, it’s tempting to say that punk is dead. Somewhere along the line, these nihilistic bastions of rebellion got sucked into the consumerist establishment which they previously vowed to fight. While bands like Sleaford Mods and Fat White Family show glimmers of hope for the future of punk, they are potentially too tied up with the nostalgia for punk’s past to have any real long-term influence.
If punk is alive, and if it has a future, it’s in Death Grips. The Sacramento-based hip-hop trio just do whatever they like, with no consideration for their fans or their own commerciality. They got signed by Epic Records, then got dropped by them like a stone for releasing their contracted album for free, featuring album artwork which boasted a phone photo of drummer Zach Hill’s erect penis with the album title scrawled across it — No Love Deep Web. They book shows with no intentions of turning up to them. They release new material without any warning or promotion, often for free. And their hip-hop sound is played with a brutal pallet of punk aesthetics: churning synths, snarling guitars, bellowed angry vocals, and beats harsh enough to make your teeth involuntarily clench.
Bottomless Pit, their eighth album in just five years, is perhaps their most cohesive and straight forward release to date. Gone are the erratic experimental song structures of N***** On The Moon, or the prog-rock vibes of Jenny Death. Tracks like Spikes and Three Bedrooms In A Good Neighbourhood are some of Death Grips’ catchiest tracks. I’d almost call them poppy if they weren’t the aural equivalent of a middle finger followed by a punch in the face. There are dubstep influences here and there, on tracks like Bubbles Buried In This Jungle and Three Bedrooms, and even an obvious grindcore influence on I Keep Giving Bad People Good Ideas and Hot Head. But essentially what they’ve given us is an album of straight up, no bullshit, in your face, cyber punk. If punk was invented in 2070 instead of 1970, it would sound like Death Grips.
Hot Head is perhaps the best track here. It’s the closest music can come to sounding like an anger and anxiety induced seizure. MC Ride’s cave-man like vocals percussively yell over Zach Hill and Andy Morin’s dissonant instrumentation which veers on the edge of falling apart completely. Eh is another highlight, partly for how its set apart from the rest of the album and the rest of Death Grip’s discography. Rather than having Ride yelling in your ear for 3 minutes, the aptly titled Eh has him exuding apathy about everything from fans, critics, life, even Death Grips.
There’s a slight lag in the middle, with tracks like Trash and Houdini paling in comparison to the others, and I generally prefer the more detailed and erratic production of albums like The Money Store and N***** On The Moon, but overall this is another pretty fantastic release from Death Grips. They’re the kind of band that make you want to run when you see police cars, set your own house on fire, or break things just because. They’re destructive, nihilistic, aggressive, irresponsible, dangerous, and they exude a medley of anger, hatred and indifference, for themselves, for you, for everything. That’s why they’re brilliant. And that’s why they’re the shape of punk to come.