Welcome to Tap Don't Talk, a new discussion feature which pits two 405 writers and friends, Rob Wilson and Michael Clark, against each other to shoot the shit about current affairs in the world of music - like they do on Skype practically every day. This feature is designed to be more casual and broad than your typical in-depth feature, firing up ideas about a certain topic that might not all fit into a normal article but are still worth discussing.

This feature will debut properly next year, and the purpose of this pilot edition was really just to familiarise ourselves with the process of writing it, but we thought we'd share it with you anyway. It's about Death Grips because, honestly, we were talking about them on Skype when their new album, Government Plates, came out and it came up that our discussion might make a decent article. Because we're self-important like that, clearly. Anyway, we hope you enjoy the discussion, feel free to add your two cents in the comments section below and we'll be back next year. See you on the other side.


Mike Clark: So, exactly a week ago at the time of writing Death Grips released a new album called Government Plates. It was totally out of the blue and the internet did a big excited wee in its pants, as it's prone to do. Despite all their recent awful antics, Death Grips are still a big deal and enjoy a lot of goodwill from the internet music community, whatever that means. But amongst all the usual hysteria generated by a new Death Grips release, I've noticed that people seem to be dissenting voices time round. Rather than people blithely remarking that "Oh it's fine, it's part of their shtick! It's all intentional!" I've been reading comments that amount to "This is just getting a bit dull now." While this is hardly a common view, it's still a rather swift paradigm shift, considering that they were kind of infallible when The Money Store came out last year. Is this something you've noticed also, Rob?

Rob Wilson: I think that, looking back, No Love Deep Web was an overall disappointment for some people - myself included. As solid as I still think it is, coming straight after The Money Store perhaps didn't help. In other words, once the initial surprise and controversy surrounding its release wore off, I was left with an offering that didn't have the same memorability factor as The Money Store and was far less cohesive. It also seems that some people have grown tired of their stunts outside of creating and releasing the music - I've seen some people on their Facebook page expressing their anger that Government Plates' creation meant some tour shows were cancelled. I don't think Government Plates is anywhere near the standard of The Money Store, what with most of its ideas being copy/paste jobs in the album's latter half. This combined with the publicity stunts might have caused the 'Death Grips effect' to wear off.

Mike: I'd agree with that; I didn't really care for No Love Deep Web upon release, and the same could be said for Government Plates - although admittedly I've only listened to the latter twice at this point. Trying to find a reason exactly why has been a bit tricky, though. I've been a fan of theirs for a while now, in the context of the band's short history anyway. I heard Spread Eagle Cross the Block on the If There's Hell Below Podcast around the time Exmilitary came out and was thoroughly bemused by that unholy mess; but I had to listen to more of that unholy mess. It was the most alluring unholy mess I've ever come across. I loved Exmilitary and The Money Store, and Death Grips were one of my favourite groups around at that time. But post-The Money Store then they've only gone down in my estimations. It's strange, because listening to the music in isolation, without all the extratextual baggage of them perfecting the art of being arseholes, they've not changed their sound massively. There has been a move away from the trappings of hip-hop that characterised them earlier on, but they can still create what are, to me anyway, inexplicable noises absolutely shatter the mind. And they're still one of the few groups that can legitimately scare me.Considering that those aspects are what drew me to the band in the first place, I'm starting to think: is this a case of "It's not you, it's me?"


Rob: I must stress that I do like No Love Deep Web. It does trail off towards the end (everything after 'Hunger Games' just doesn't capture the same kind of fury or energy) but the first half of the album is up there with some of Death Grips best output, not to mention the influence some of its sonic exploration had on Yeezus a year later. But I think the drop off in quality has come about because Death Grips seem to be more interested in quantity rather than quality. Four albums in just over three years is incredibly prolific, but are they biting off more than they can chew? Having said that, Government Plates is rumoured to be the soundtrack to a film Zach Hill is working on at the moment, which would explain its rather sketchy, motif-driven aesthetic, but if that's not the case then what are Death Grips aiming to achieve by producing material that seems to be moving faster than they can cope? I understand that The Beatles went from Please Please Me to Revolver in the same amount of time, but sometimes it's okay to slow down and gather yourself. Death Grips sound like they need this. 2013 was doing alright without Death Grips, they didn't need to crash the party.

Mike: Actually, before I get to my next point, I need to ask: if Government Plates does end up being the score for that Zach Hill film, would that information swerve your opinion? Would you see it as a less serious release than No Love Deep Web and The Money Store, meaning that you're less likely to compare it to The Money Store and its faults are more justifiable? Or at least easier to contextualise considering its purpose?

Rob: I see it as a less serious release already.

Mike: Oh snap!

Rob : Seriously. There's no plans to make it a physical release, there was no build up and Ride is barely featured on the album. It feels more like a Flatlander/Zach Hill project rather than a fully formed Death Grips release. If there's one thing that you can never question Death Grips on, it's their workrate, but Government Plates feels like Ride had minimal input. I understand that the band interchange instruments during the recording process all the time, but Ride's presence is gone.

Mike: Okay, here's a way of framing the question that's perhaps better: As you know Rob, The Flaming Lips are one of my favourite bands. And for the past few years they've been consistently pissing about doing whatever they want; the Heady Fwends album, putting songs in human skulls, the 24 hour song etc. Now, sure, some great tracks have come from these experiments - like Is David Bowie Dying? - but honestly, a lot of that stuff is garbage. Yet that does nothing to my overall opinion of the band because I don't really see those tracks as anything more than frivolous experiments, and as such I don't compare them to the band's highs. I don't know about you, but I'd put a band scoring a film they made in the category of frivolous experimentation. Is it just that Death Grips haven't earned the sort of goodwill I have with The Flaming Lips?

Rob: I wondered whether you were heading there or not, and it turns out you did. Now, the one thing that's snagging about your point is that I'd consider myself to be more likely to "buy into" Death Grips' show-cancelling, alternative reality game-making, controversy than you are, yet I'm still not that hot on Government Plates or the members themselves at the moment. Perhaps Death Grips flame is on its way to being dumped in the bucket of water for me? That's not to say that I won't enjoy their music, but the context they provide with each album doesn't seem to justify or add anything to the music they put out in the way it used to. They released their first mixtape within months of being together, The Money Store and No Love Deep Web were shrowded in controversy, but the sudden surprise of Government Plates doesn't feel worth it less than a month later.

Mike: My love for The Flaming Lips is predictable but reliable, deal with it. Anyway, I suppose that my analogy was flawed in that Government Plates was released unexpectedly, which leads us to believe that it's a serious release, whereas I go into Flaming Lips' Gummy Song Skull knowing it's going to be a dumb experiment and don't expect much from it. But that point you made there leads nicely onto my next one: Is Death Grips' model sustainable? They're angry, cacophonous and ideologically motivated in that they absolutely love sticking it to The Man. But that works better in short bursts than sustained cries. Punk in its original form is a good example of this as it really didn't last that long - about three or four years. Of course, punk is a genre and has its revivals, elaborations and has since evolved and such, but you get the point. Have we, as a musical community, taken everything that Death Grips can offer? Did we need a swift, cataclysmic fuck you to the music industry before we moved on to the next craze?


Rob: I still think Death Grips can offer us something if they develop their sound. However, images need to change because peoples' attention spans and interests are generally getting shorter, and there's only so long a gimmick like the one Death Grips' chose can last. In other words, you can only stick it to so many Men before you run out of Men to stick it to. Their music is niche enough to remain interesting to those who are yet to listen to them and memorable enough (on the whole) to stick with a large amount of people. But I was one of the people they cancelled on to make No Love Deep Web, and knowing they've done that very same thing to lots of their fans over and over for less important things other than to "promote their image" makes me think they're just talented dicks. Not to mention their attempt at running Epic's name through the mud came across as doubly dickish. "Cool" at first, but a bad move in retrospect.

Mike: Not that I necessarily agree with this, but I guess I could counter that by asking: Isn't that what Death Grips are? Is that not their purpose? Isn't that what we want from them?

Rob: Forever? I dunno, like I said: there's only so many Men you can stick it to.

Mike: Exactly; that's where I stand with them now. You might not remember, but when No Love Deep Web came out and you were falling in love with it, I said to you that I'm "all Death Griped out" and I found it hard to work up any enthusiasm about it. At the time I was referring to the fact that we had already had one substantial Death Grips release that year, and despite how cool they can sound I only have so much stamina for such punishing noises. But with Government Plates I can't help but the same feel intense ambivalence. And I think that's because everything I could have gotten from Death Grips I got from The Money Store. They've served their purpose for me. I needed that short burst of unfiltered anger but now I don't. And I think we can apply that more broadly to the response that Government Plates is getting. Not necessarily from critics, because they still seem to be just about on their side. But friends and people on Twitter, they seem bored of Death Grips' shit at this point. I think their sound and message is so intense and niche that it can only last so long without getting stale, where we get to a point where their sound is so overbearing and we want to listen to something less demanding like Frank Ocean or something. We may have reached that point.

Rob: I think Death Grips could prevent their sound from getting stale if they grew up outside of it. Not turning up to festivals, cancelling tours on the day they begin, releasing albums against your label's wishes - to bring it back to your punk comparison, it all feels a little too much like watching that Sex Pistols interview with Bill Grundy over and over again. Their hardcore fans are naturally lapping up Government Plates, and they are unpredictable enough to release another corker like The Money Store, but whether Death Grips will allow themselves to is another question. With Death Grips you have three supremely talented and perfectly suited musicians making music that is perhaps the most unique in today's industry, but I think they're doing too much too fast and they're trying to juggle orchestrated controversy with it as well in order to not only stay relevant, but be above it. I think that's doing too much. After all, it is about the music more than anything

Mike: Of course. And I really want them to make another amazing album, don't get me wrong here. I'm not sure they will, though. But that's as much to do with me and how I view the band as much as the quality of the music they're putting out. I felt obligated to listen to Government Plates to because I wanted to be involved in the conversation. I didn't listen to it for pleasure, and that obviously plays a part in how I respond to an album. I just wanted it to be done so I could go back to listen to TV on the Radio again. Put simply: I'm bored of them.

Rob: I think that's where Death Grips manage to keep their relevancy quite successfully, to be fair. They can drop an album from absolutely nowhere and get thousands of people on it within minutes regardless of that person's level of interest in the band. I saw someone describe them as the first "post-Internet" band once, and I totally get where they're coming from. I just think that, if in a year's time they've released a fifth or even sixth album of the same sketchy, "not as good as The Money Store" material, then they risk exploding before their time is due.

Mike: That's absolutely fair. I'm not sure how it'll take for the consensus to switch from "Oh, a new Death Grips album!" to "Really, another Death Grips album?" or if it will at all. But I've already seen it starting to turn that way, even from the most devout Death Grips fans I follow on Twitter. I suppose it's up to them to stop dicking about and actually make a consistent batch of tunes again. Although they might lose what makes them Death Grips if they do that, which goes back to the idea that it's unsustainable, that the brightest candles burn the quickest.

Head here to read 405 Music Editor Wil Cook's review of the album.

Rob Wilson is a columnist for The 405, taking care of our Staring Down The Pit series. Mike Clark is also a columnist for the 405, chatting about films for our Rental Floss series.