Death Grips is definitely online.
Following up last years Steroids (Crouching Tiger Hidden Gabber) Mix, MC Ride, Andy Morin, and Zach Hill return with an album that manages to be their most cutting edge and unorthodox yet. Year of the Snitch is another step forward for Death Grips as they explore a whole new sonic palette. Although Death Grips are classified as a “hip-hop” outfit, this is the last genre tag I would assign to this record. The band brought in Tool bassist Justin Chancellor and Andrew Adamson, the director from New Zealand who worked on the first two Shrek films. This album sees the band shifting their sound to work in more electronics and elements of kraut-rock, progressive rock, garage rock, drum-and-bass, shoegaze and even jazz.
Due to this shift, this album feels more experimental than what fans consider to be their least accessible albums, N*ggas on the Moon and Government Plates. The former sees Death Grips using Björk samples and delivering some of the band’s more puzzling songs in their whole discography. Government Plates managed to up the aggression of the band’s sound while having more bare instrumentals and more abstract song structures.
If anything is true about Death Grips, it’s that they’re never comfortable with staying in the same lane with each release. Still, despite the band’s change in sound, Year of the Snitch is one of the band’s most catchy albums. If anything, this album is more in line with Andy Morin and Zach Hill’s side project, The ILY’s.
Going into Year of the Snitch was a bit strange because the singles that were released for the album were easily some of the band’s weirdest to date. The first single, “Streaky”, is a track that I still love, probably even more so within the context of the album. The repeating lead synth melody on the track is simply infectious and will burrow its way into your head with the first listen. MC Ride’s lyrics are still as cryptic as ever with him making references to marijuana, speed, and the film Lost Highway.
My favorite single, however, is “Black Paint”. This song is very reminiscent of the track “Turned Off”, from Jenny Death, the second half of The Powers That B. This type of track is what fans are most likely accustomed to when they hear a Death Grips song. It’s rough, distorted, and grimy. Unlike “Streaky”, where MC Ride is rapping in his lower register over solely electronic production, “Black Paint” is the most aggressive song the whole album. The guitar work accompanied by Zach Hill ’s drumming is simply immaculate with Ride absolutely screaming his brains out all over the track.
The album’s non-singles are just as amazing though, like the opener “Death Grips is Online”, which is a track that makes me feel as if I’m at an end of the world rave party where everyone is on ecstasy and just dancing their lives away. The instrumental is oddly uplifting despite the lyrics making alluding suicide, paranoia, and critique of internet culture and their own fanbase.
“Death Grips is online, drinking from its spine
Living till I’m fine, pretty pretty nine
Color me a cult, echo in my throat”
Every other track on here is quality. Tracks like “Linda’s in Custody”, “Hahaha”, The Fear”, and “Dilemma” are among of the albums weirdest and most abstract moments. “The Fear” is the band’s venture into the realm of jazz fusion with the drums and piano work. It took awhile for this track to grow on me, but it has.
The transitions from track to track are sometimes sporadic, but they all flow at a decent pace and keep the album moving. While the majority of tracks are consistent on Year of the Snitch, I feel as if the album is a tad bit top heavy. The record starts off incredible, but by the end, I was hoping for a bit more. That’s not to say that the songs on the latter half are bad by any means, but compared to the earlier tracks, they’re not nearly as engaging in my opinion.
The ending, “Disappointed” is definitely a tongue-and-cheek response to those fans who would undoubtedly criticize this album because of the change the band underwent sonically. It ’s understandable how a person could see this as a digression from what the band has done in the past. Still, I appreciate Death Grips once again experimenting with a whole new approach. They’re never one to stick to one formula f
Whereas 2016’s Bottomless Pit was the band refining the sound of their previous albums, Year of the Snitch feels like a whole new chapter for Death Grips. The tracks still feel as anomalous as you would expect, but with a whole new sound to accompany them, they feel fresh. Wherever Death Grips goes next is anybody’s guess, but I know I’ll be ready for whatever surprises they come out with next.