The second half of the powers that b is finally here. I wouldn’t believe it either, but here I am with a copy of Jenny Death in my iTunes. Supposedly the physical release of their double album the powers that b is to be the final chapter of a band that were at times as brilliant as they were annoying (to call them polarizing would be giving them too much credit). On paper, Death Grips was a wonderful idea, merging the primal and the complex and it worked for three albums. After 2012’s No Love Deep Web, the band’s shtick was well-worn and the music has been intermittently interesting. Jenny Death is the more of the same, but with a facelift: the instrumentation on this side of the powers that b push the sound closer to rock. This results in some of the best and most original rock this year as well as some of the worst songs in the band’s catalog.
Then there’s the album’s first half Niggas On The Moon, which B.G.M.’s Steve Wheeler wrote about last summer, in his review he mentions The Clash’s Cut The Crap. The Death Grips as a punk band narrative is crap, considering that their actions suggest they’re just as bratty as the remaining members of The Clash that had kicked chief songwriter Mick Jones out of the band. That being said, I’m certain some of the band’s supporters would consider the band’s discography to be London Calling levels of ambitious. While I won’t deny there’s some ambitious aspects to Death Grips catalog, this is a band who has never quite redefined their sound as much as they have retooled it. It’s proved a solid formula with enough wins (The Money Store) to make up for the losses (Government Plates). But while Death Grips are, as Steve put it, “mercifully saving us from a Cut The Crap,” there’s enough weak material on the powers that b that a make-your-own terrible Death Grips album playlist can be whittled from its massive body. However, Jenny Death becomes the most radical departure Death Grips has made from their sound about 3 or 4 tracks in, getting weirder by occasionally sounding like a fantastic rock band.
The first side of the powers that b definitely deserves re-evaluation now that the entire album is complete, but not much has changed. For one, there’s not one thing I can point to in the last six months that I can trace back to it. The Björk samples were properly utilized for the most part, but the sample would prove intrusive on “Black Quarterback,” while elsewhere it was the band’s inability to write a good deconstruction on sex (“Fuck Me Out”) or MC Ride sounding awkward over the percussion Zach Hill employs (“Say Hey Kid,” “Have A Sad Cum”) that ruins an otherwise good idea. “Up My Sleeves” is the self-actualization of this MC Ride + Zach Hill + Bjork’s voice formula and MC Ride puts the team on his back “Voila” and “Big Dipper”.
The new material on Jenny Death hardly sounds like the first half of the album, but has a similar fate of running into flashes of brilliance and nagging problems. Most of Jenny Death‘s 10 tracks runs over the 4:30 mark and only “Beyond Alive,” “Inanimate Sensation,” and “On GP” deserve that treatment. This hinders great ideas like “Why A Bitch Gotta Lie” and “Turned Off,” as well as drawing out the album’s weaker moments like “Centuries of Damn.” It’s a shame that the powers that b comes off like the band throwing things against the wall to see if they stick in the way that Government Plates did, because their strike rate on Jenny Death is the highest its been since No Love Deep Web. Here, the band is finding the sound they had been building up to since Government Plates, but Death Grips were never meant to be as sprawling as they are on Jenny Death, nor is the mixing always up to snuff for the progressive masterwork territory some of the songs accidentally wander into.
As a whole, the powers that b almost works. It surely suffers to an overindulgence in that there are too many failed ideas here that were either never fully realized or were never meant to work. Where the first half of the album Niggas On The Moon, has more outright ideas, Death Grips overcook their often-better ideas on the second half, Jenny Death. This possible final endeavor of the Death Grips story is more successful from the standpoint of getting 10 really good songs out of it than another great album. And while it wasn’t always a pleasure, Death Grips managed more great music in 5 years than some artists deliver in 25. It would be easier not to mind the bullocks if a Metal Box was on the way, but Death Grips amount of a pack of brats that have a apparently broken up before they grew up.