Year of the Snitch is undoubtedly one of, if not the most, batshit album that Death Grips has ever recorded. Bear in mind this is the band that brought us tracks such as ‘Inanimate Sensation’, ‘Hot Head’ and ‘No Love’. Their previous album Bottomless Pit still has a vibe of its own but it felt less like Death Grips exploring yet another sonic frontier more like a super clean, condensed version of stuff they’d done before. It still banged, but for the first time a new Death Grips album sounded like Death Grips, rather than completely tearing up yet another rule book.
Year of the Snitch is a different beast entirely. Comparisons could perhaps be drawn to Government Plates trippiness and ‘The First Half of The Powers That B’’s seamless transitions and skittish rhythms but to compare it to what’s come before belittles how wild this album really is. Death Grips’ use of samples and sound manipulation of sources that vary from from what sounds like jazz piano to noise artists (aka absolute nutter Lucas Abela who blows on glass plates to create sound, often cutting himself in the process) to even their own earlier work to create songs that could be described as heavy blues, 80s pop-esque and even speed metal at various points is genuinely mind blowing. It’s almost absurd in how it can, and will, completely change its sound within the same song, yet still sound cohesive via the very claustrophobic mixing and, of course, MC Ride’s entirely unique and manic vocal delivery.
Opener ‘Death Grips is Online’ is a great mission statement for the album, but not in terms of anything tangible like genre or lyrical themes; rather, in terms of how it takes the listener on a completely unpredictable journey. It begins with a nice chord progression at a standard rock-y canter before a synth arpeggio runs for a couple of bars only for the music to cut out before Ride screams ‘I’M DOING HANDSTANDS IN THE TRANS-AM’ and the track is suddenly galloping ahead and pulling you along with it, that nice synth arpeggio from before is now glitchy and acidic, rising and falling with Ride’s voice. A great song definitely sits at the core of all these tracks but it’s buried under so many other details and mixed so close together that it’s almost impossible to catch every thing on a first listen. The album evolves on subsequent listens as you pick up on more and more layers of sound, especially all of the intricate grooves from drummer Zach Hill.
The album then leads into ‘Flies’ which is halfway between ‘Anne Bonny’ from Government Plates and some disgusting drum and bass being played in a Bristol basement. Following that is ‘Black Paint’, perhaps Death Grips’ best attempt at a more rock-focussed track ever, with Ride showing off some of his more guttural, shouted deliveries and featuring guitar contributions from Tera Melos’ Nick Reinhart, including a great solo to close out the track. ‘Linda’s In Custody’ is where the album really falls off the deep end with a much less aggressive vibe but one far more devilish, with Ride mumbling over some snakey synths and dusty samples. This sound is revisited later on with ‘The Fear’ which is probably the oddest track on the album. A descending piano sample is backed by a timestretched vocal sample as Ride warbles ‘the feeaarr’ over it, synthesising images of an LSD fuelled Satanic carnival. There’s moments of catchiness amongst all this chaos, particularly the hooks of ‘Black Paint’ and eighth track ‘Streaky’ which has almost a trappy flavour in terms of its Ride’s flow and the bounce-y groove Zach Hill provides. ‘Little Richard’ is the only non-interlude track which doesn’t quite hit the mark, but it’s still serviceable as a transition from the more bop-focussed middle section of the album into the utter mania of the last three tracks.
This is perhaps the best Death Grips album. It may not have a track that’s as head split-tingly intense as ‘No Love’ or one as catchy as ‘I’ve Seen Footage’ but as a complete, front-to-back listening experience no other album best encapsulates the joy of listening to Death Grips and seeing what mad shit they’re going to do next.
Words by Jack Hollis