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Album Review
The Money Store

The Money Store
by Death Grips


Review Date
27th June 2012
Reviewed by
Michael Harvey

Death Grips are the sound of right now. This is the soundtrack to our waking (i.e. sleeping) lives, all newsfeed propaganda and hyperlink overload, 3-D lives imprisoned in 2-D screens, perpetually in medias res without any sign of backstory or resolution. Not to say that aggressive digital-era urban paranoia hasn't been done in music before (see also: Tricky, Nine Inch Nails, Atari Teenage Riot, Public Enemy), but the way Death Grips inherently position themselves outside of any established milieu is a smart move. "Are they hip-hop or not?" is a question that nerds on forums love to debate, but ultimately it becomes a pointless exercise. Why? Because Death Grips are punk, man, and not in your 70's-throwback-mohawk-three-chords-and-an-attitude sense. No, dig it, punk like Suicide (the band, Hoss!) is punk, ya know? Punk like GG Allin's entire existence is punk! Punk like John Waters' films or William Gibson's Neuromancer are punk! 

It is also worth noting that they are signed to major label Epic Records, also home to the Clash and Rage Against the Machine, populous sloganeers from the seventies and nineties respectively. Interesting that this label had on its roster two of the most iconoclastic and essentially revolution-focused bands to ever work within the constraints of the major record industry, leftist agitators and guerrilla freedom fighters who basically called it quits when their vision of stirring the kids to overthrow their bourgeois mainstream masters through the almighty power of rock'n'roll did not come to fruition (RATM's recent/highly unnecessary reunion notwithstanding). And here are Death Grips today, relentlessly tearing down barriers and preconceptions that avant-sampling techniques, deranged rhymes, layers of over-saturated noise crossed with a disintegration of society vibe can make music that rocks but all the old signifiers, styles and stereotypes are thoroughly beaten-up, shredded and in most cases discarded with. 

And let's not overlook the content in favour of the context. Whereas their previous release Exmilitary showcased MC Ride's savvy spiels over the top of producer Flatlander's furious and on-point sampling (cuts from Black Flag, Bad Brains and early Pink Floyd appear amongst others), the guitar-noise is somewhat absent here, replaced instead by stuttering synths and evil bass drops, with Ride no less virulent. Zach Hill, drummer wunderkind behind the kit in Hella, weighs in on the percussion department but favouring a more linear and industrial approach to electronic beats than the scatterbrained virtuosity of his previous outfit. MC Ride's vocals, in terms of their cadence and rhythm, are the most directly hip-hop thing on The Money Store, and they way they are integrated amongst the shards of melody and pummelling beats adds to the record's off-kilter and unsettling aura. The group revel in the incongruous - the unstable synth line on "I've Seen Footage" is the closest thing this album gets to a bona fide pop hook, whilst the lyrics describe police brutality caught on film and rewatched in slow-motion. The spacey IDM of "Lost Boys" provides merely a more ambient space for Ride to unleash. To be sure, the MC's presence dominates the album, and his kaleidoscopic rants almost become wearying at times, but the production is what keeps things compelling in terms of tension and dynamics. "Hacker", with it's insidious refrain of "I'm in your area", and the the Bollywood breakcore of "Punk Weight" indicate that in some ways Death Grips are the inversion of dancefloor music, where dancing becomes fighting and fighting becomes dancing. You know, like at a punk rock show! 

For those who are already familiar with the group from Exmiliatry, or from their lo-res and highly-amped music videos, the initial impact of Death Grips is lessened here - nevertheless The Money Store still delivers a powerful sonic punch. Sure, the aggression can become somewhat monotonous at times, and the transgressive rhymes occasionally revel in violence for violence's sake, but the brilliant production is what is key here. In essence, Death Grips are your punk-rockin', cybernetic, apocalyptic, hyperbolic, disco (not disco) maelstrom for 2012, providing oblique aural strategies for our inexorably obtuse age.


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