Death Grips’ Jenny Death is worth the wait

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It’s been nearly a full year since Death Grips, the most exhilarating band of this era, released the first part of a planned double album, then unceremoniously “broke up.” In the span of the last ten or so months, its crazed, devout followers combed the Internet incessantly for some, any clue as to when the second disc would appear, and in what form. The question on fans’ lips for months was “Jenny Death when?”

Surprisingly, the band — known for stunts such as dropping surprise releases before Beyoncé did it, and which may or may not have actually parted ways — opted to give The Powers That B a traditional release. Now, the full album is finally here, a real, tangible object — I’ve held the CD in my hands. But was it worth the wait? God, yes.

On Jenny Death, the band manages to do what many have failed to do with new releases: innovate on its signature sound while maintaining familiarity without sameness. Death Grips takes two approaches to these songs. One is the more electronically based route its known for. Crushing lead single “Inanimate Sensation,” sees the band exploring a new structural and rhythmic pattern, substituting their industrial hip-hop beats for plodding, explosive drums, whining vocal aberrations and whirring synths that sound like your brains are being swirled in a blender.

The second approach, where the album finds its true character, sees the band shifting into rock territory, arguably for the first time in its career (stalwarts for its debut project Exmilitary may disagree, but that album was sample-based, whereas this one is fully composed.) Recruiting members of Tera Melos and drummer Zach Hill’s band Hella, the group delivers devastating rock straddling the line between punk and heavy psych. If Jimi Hendrix and Keith Moon started a band, it might sound something like “On GP,” an uncharacteristic jam that gets better with every listen.

Each member of the band is in prime form on the record. Zach Hill’s drumming has never quite shone like it does here, because there’s much less to distract from it. He’s the best percussionist of his generation, and the album gives him a chance to prove it outside of the band’s famously chaotic live shows. Likewise, vocalist MC Ride is more animalistic and vicious than ever, varying between the guttural shout-raps he’s known for and several far more crazed, disturbing voices. Producer Flatlander maintains his impressively consistent level of quality and ever-shifting style.  It’s thanks to the talent and creative courage of the three that a band has finally made rap-rock, once (correctly) derided as the disdainful product of Limp Bizkit and others, into something unique and thrilling.

The first disc on The Powers That B, released for free last year, was more of an experiment. The crew used the voice of none other than Icelandic singer Björk as a “found object,” processing it into beats. On Jenny Death, however, Death Grips proves its talent and vision, telling us that they can overpower us easily without gimmickry. It’s easily their best record in years, and listening to it will overtake you, fill you with energy, and make you feel beyond alive.

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