In case you can’t tell by the saw-toothed synths and incessant squeals at the start of Government Plates, yes, this is the second abruptly “leaked” (and subsequently licensed, to the Universal Music subsidiary Harvest Records) Death Grips album in a little over a year. And while it’s still unclear whether we’re supposed to consider it a mixtape, soundtrack (to the film drummer Zach Hill is reportedly directing) or proper LP, there’s no point in deliberating such details with songs that scream for themselves, figuratively and literally.
What matters is the fact that Sacramento’s most bat-shit band is still refining their roughly hewn outer realm of extreme/experimental music, a queasy head-on collision of hip-hop, noise, industrial and punk in its purest form. Which would be an unlistenable mess if Death Grips didn’t have such an ear for manic pop melodies at the end of the day, something L.A. Reid must have seen in them when he first signed the ill-fated outfit to Epic. Even the most brutal material on here — the centrifugal grooves of “Feels Like a Wheel,” the stutter-step samples of “Two Heavens,” and the laser-cut “Whatever I Want (Fuck Who’s Watching),” which creeps and claws at your face for an epic six-and-a-half minutes — works its way into your brain like only the best agitprop can. And none of it sounds like anything but Death Grips. No wonder why MC Ride celebrates the trio’s independence by howling “freelance, motherfucker!” on the record’s opening track; doing it yourself rarely sounds this unscripted and straight-up dangerous.