Death Grips - The Powers That B
Aug 20, 2019
100
"it's been a pleasure, Stefan"

Well. Today’s the day. Reviewing my fav album of the 2010s.

It’s not everyday you hear someone call The Powers That B the “Album of the Decade”. That’s exactly why I’m here: to discuss Death Grips’ Magnum Opus, an 80 minute epic comprised of two polar-opposite discs that come together for the group’s most dark, depressing, haunting, disturbing, off-the-wall, violent, overwhelming and soul-crushing album ever.

I had the chance to revisit this album very recently. The day I returned to The Powers That B, I wasn’t feeling like myself. It was just one of those bad days where I didn’t feel like doing anything and was really being tough on myself. The Powers That B wasn’t originally my fav Death Grips album. Although I absolutely loved the double disc project, part of me couldn’t explain exactly why what made it stick out. Revisiting The Powers That B was both a great and bad decision. Great because I figured out exactly what made it so special to me and cause it was an exciting listen. Bad because, honestly, this album devastated me. Even knowing the subject matter beforehand and having basically memorized the album at this point, this was a depressing and mentally disturbing album.

Back when I used to have this on heavy rotation, I didn’t think much about it as I do now. Back then, I would laugh a bit at Ride’s strange vocals and absurd lyrics. Nowadays, The Powers That B is no laughing matter. The lyrics are genuinely depressing and traumatic. Exciting, but not the kind of album that entertains. I guess for me, Death Grips and MC Ride was more of just a persona than anything else. Sure, on previous albums, Ride’s lyrics have been quite cryptic and stomach-churning, but it seemed more as part of the MC Ride’s paranoid persona. With The Powers That B, the lyrics are a lot more down-to-earth. The subject matter is more disturbing than ever before. Ride’s delivery is so spot-on that he breaks character. Instead of just being a persona, Ride (or Stefan Burnett) is real and genuine. Instead of asking “is MC Ride alright”, The Powers That B raises the question “is Stefan Burnett alright?”, “is Zach Hill and Andy Morin alright”. TPTB humanizes the people behind Death Grips.

With both discs offering some of the most intriguing and exciting musical moments in the band’s discography, The Powers That B doesn’t fail at really capturing the ultimate Death Grips album experience in 80 minutes.

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Disc 1: uhh...let’s just call it “Nuggets on the Moon”

Nuggets on the Moon is Death Grips’ most twisted, eccentric, abstract and glitchest project. Being released months before Jenny Death, this certainly rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. The record features some of Death Grips least accessible beats, strange musical passages which brings a bucket list full of surprises and excessive Björk vocal sampling that’s difficult to decipher.

This album is MC Ride at arguably his most disturbing and twisted. From the moments following the intro of Up My Sleeves, it’s pretty clear that this was not going to be the easy-going journey. Up My Sleeves is a lyrically dark, sonically haunting and depressing track. Instead of Ride’s screams being filled with anger and aggressiveness, they’re a lot more sad and sound like they’re holding back tears. Billy Not Really is an absurd change-up that features shockingly pretty and gorgeous instrumentals. The little vocal snippets also give the track a lot of atmosphere and an otherworldly feel. Black Quarterback’s beat switch-ups are absolutely insane and Björk’s vocal snippets are very invasive and prominent. Say Hey Kid is a very creepy, fucked up track that goes through instant, abrupt instrumental changes. One half is a very speedy, industrial hip hop segment and the other is a beautifully creepy and satisfying glitch hop experience. Have a Sad Cum serves as an instrumental detour that doesn’t fail to keep up the absurdity of Nuggets on the Moon thus far. This immediately transitions to Fuck Me Out, which is possibly Death Grips’ most cryptic and traumatic song yet. The speedy production and vocal samples are anxiety-inducing and Ride’s vocals are shockingly disturbing and uncomfortable, yet incredibly fascinating. Voila continues the insanity with Ride’s absurd vocals, an insane hook breakdown and Björk vocals that are looped to insanity. Speaking of looped to insanity Björk vocals, Big Dipper is a haunting, glitchy track where Ride’s vocals progressively get more chilling and aggressive. Then the track breaks down into this insanely perplexing finish with Björk’s vocal samples being looped everywhere to the point that the entire track goes through a mindfuck moment. Yet, despite all of that, Big Dipper’s last moments are quite gorgeous and chilling.

Nuggets on the Moon is a very challenging listen, but the result is an incredibly perplexing, disorienting, yet imaginative, brutal and off-the-wall release. Despite all of the insanity, it still manages to be a very focused project that has a lot to offer in terms of lyrical content and unique, fulfilling production. This is Death Grips at their most esoteric. A fascinating journey that never gets old and is always full of challenging surprises. Enjoyable, yet incredibly haunting and sometimes, emotionally and mentally wrecking.

At this point, this disc is truly a unique spectacle, serving as Death Grips at their most adventurous and lyrically open. A seamless album journey that’s one-of-a-kind in its own right.

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And despite all of that, there’s still disc 2.

Disc 2: Jenny Death

It’s hard to imagine that the follow-up sister album to Nuggets on the Moon, being incredibly different in its sonic direction, could end up pairing up so well. Yet, here we are with Jenny Death. Essentially the follow-up to Nuggets on the Moon, this project carries some of the lyrical themes explored on the first disc into a more hard-hitting, hardcore punk and hard rock edge.

Even though it may not be as creepy and traumatic lyrically, Jenny Death certainly makes up for it with insanely loud, aggressive guitars and the heavy punk influence. Jenny Death, being a lot more accessible and in familiar music territory, creates a sense of urgency and creates an overall experience that’s bone-crushing and finishes off the entire double album by progressively becoming more depressing and soul-draining (in an amazing way). The tracks on Jenny Death are generally longer. The result? An album full of hardcore punk, somewhat psychedelic, atmospheric and engaging 5-6 minute epics. Although it’s not a seamless experience, the tracks feel closely joined to one another. This is Death Grips at their most hard-hitting, aggressive and traumatic.

I Break Mirrors With My Face In The United States is a short opener that displays the musical switch between the glitchy first-half with the more intense second-half. Ride is at his most self-defeated state ever and is a sign of things to come later on. Inanimate Sensation is a 6-minute overwhelming experience that constantly switches up, is incredibly noisy with heavy punk influences and features some of Ride’s craziest vocal performances yet, sometimes being animalistic, while other times being chillingly silent. Turned Off has a crazy, guitar dominated beginning and immediately breaks down into distortion, synth punk and Ride screaming his guts out as if it was a call for help. Why A Bitch Gotta Lie is a strange detour with electronic elements and edited Ride vocals that are mind-twisting. Pss Pss is a perplexing hip-hop spearheaded track with warped production, twisted, very fucked up lyrics and a hardcore noisy guitar breakdown that transitions exceptionally into a calmer, somewhat gorgeous, glitchy, electronic end. The title track features Ride at his most aggressive, to the point that it’s shocking like a direct punch to the face. Beyond Alive an underrated 6-minute experience dominated by guitars. Despite being repetitive, it doesn’t lose its suspense and charm and finishes off with a nice, fulfilling, unforgettable glitch hop ending. Centuries of Damn is a very heavy track that’s equally depressing and blown out. It serves as a fitting prelude to the finishing moments of TPTB.

And then we have On GP. On GP is just...something else. There’s a reason why it’s on a separate paragraph. The overarching themes of death and depression from both sides of the disc come together into this 6-minute odyssey that really messes with your emotions! It’s a haunting track that really gives you a moment to connect with Stefan Burnett. It’s a passionately heartfelt and cryptic moment as you just listen to a man screaming away his pains to you, a person on the Internet who won’t remember you when you’re actually gone. At least that’s what one may think when in the state Stefan’s in. On GP is truly a fascinating, dark moment. One of the best songs of the decade. All of this leads to the album closer, the finale of the original Death Grips catalog, Death Grips 2.0, a watery, toned-down, mysterious instrumental section to end the album experience.

Jenny Death is an impressive addition and conclusion of The Powers That B. The insane punk influences, the shocking vocal presence of Ride and the hard-hitting guitar arrangements make it quite possibly their most aggressively overwhelming, memorable and exciting release ever. This is Death Grips at what they do best. Jenny Death is a gut-wrenching, dynamic and incredibly potent record that is among the band’s most impressive work.

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And so, when putting together these albums as one under “The Powers That B”, we get a Death Grips experience like no other. One that’s impressive, off-the-wall, incomparable, insane, depressing and fulfilling. This is Death Grips at their greatest...
15 Comments
Aug 20, 2019
Shit, I have to continue my review in the comments:

...potential. Although not the preferable choice for those trying to get into the group, it’s certainly the most rewarding.

The fact that two records, having essentially nothing in common on a musical standpoint, can come together to create an experience unlike anything else I’ve heard this decade is remarkable. Death Grips have made amazing albums before this, but none of them really leave as much of an impact on me as this one.
Aug 20, 2019
And with all the time spent trying to get the most out of The Powers That B, I can now finally confidently say that this is my favorite 2010s album. One of the most refreshing 80 minutes I’ll probably ever get from listening to music.

Perhaps I spent way too much time reviewing this album. There are so many things I could’ve said in this review that I didn’t include or remember. As a dirty little perfectionist, I hate myself for rushing this review, but this record means a lot to me. The more
Aug 20, 2019
and more I listen to it, the more I find to love about it.

As it stands, The Powers That B is...a masterpiece.
Aug 20, 2019
Disc 1
FAV TRACKS: Up My Sleeves, Billy Not Really, Black Quarterback, Say Hey Kid, Fuck Me Out, Voila, Big Dipper

LEAST FAV TRACK: Have A Sad Cum

Disc 2
FAV TRACKS: On GP, I Break Mirrors With My Face In The United States, Inanimate Sensation, Turned Off, Why A Bitch Gotta Lie, Pss Pss, The Powers That B, Beyond Alive, Centuries of Damn

LEAST FAV TRACK: Death Grips 2.0

Yeah, it’s a big fat 10.
Aug 20, 2019
Oh! What a review! I had never seen a review so long ... I'm going to read it...
Aug 20, 2019
Excellent, I finished reading it. Your review was extremely well written and well constructed. Really good work. You definitely put a lot of your thoughts in it. I love Nuggets On The Moon because it's totally different from any other DG albums and I agree with you that Jenny Death is the most impresive DG album.
Aug 20, 2019
this is the longest review on AOTY since you talked about TPAB
Aug 20, 2019
Great review. ON GP is the best death grips song ever imo.
Aug 21, 2019
Yes, this review was amazing, my respects
Aug 21, 2019
this is my favorite DG albums and one of my all time faves. amazing review
Aug 23, 2019
great review, thanks for sharing.
Aug 24, 2019
You're a fucking legend.
Aug 24, 2019
Flawless review, really appreciate ur knowledge and analysis
Aug 24, 2019
This is the type of review I've always wanted to write after hearing this album, but I could never have the level of analysis you put into this. So thank you, sir!
Sep 5, 2019
When Ride said "Your wife has a lovely neck" I felt that.

Oh nice review btw
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