Bematt added a blog entry in The SlipReview: Muse - DronesMuse has had one of the most interesting, yet entirely perplexing musical paths I have ever seen from a band. Once upon a time, they were just creeping up from their British homeland, trying to make a name for themselves starting with local gigs and the release of their debut album, Showbiz. While they didn’t really know who they were trying to be at first (though most people liked to think of them as a knockoff Radiohead, due to front man Matt Bellamy sounding kind of like Thom Yorke at times), Muse crafted their own identities through the albums that propelled them into the spotlight, Origin of Symmetry and Absolution. Who could forget the prog-rock inspired tracks like “Citizen Erased” and “New Born”? When Muse first had entered the tiny confines of my musical knowledge, it was through their more alternative oriented hits like “Hysteria” and “Stockholm Syndrome”. Most fans would agree that these two albums are the peak of Muse’s career, and would consider it their curse, for most agree that afterwards Muse started on a very different path.
It was when Muse decided to delve into the magic of technology that they started experimenting in a whole new way, but with mixed results. Where Black Holes and Revelations was a space rock trip that liked to dabble in soft rock undertones and the occasional progressive flair (”Knights of Cydonia” comes to mind), The Resistance was incredibly heavy handed and incredibly melodramatic, with the politically charged anthem “Uprising” segueing oddly into the pop-inspired “Resistance” and “Undisclosed Desires”, and then back into another anthem with “United States of Eurasia”, and then onwards into synthesizer heavy territory and a jarring transition into classical inspired pieces like “I Belong To You” and the entirety of the “Exogenesis” trilogy. While the former is still seen with much fondness, The Resistance tends to be a mixed bag for most.
While experimentation and change keeps a band’s sound interesting, it’s hard to defend the half Queen tribute, half dubstep tribute mess that was The 2nd Law. While I personally think tracks like “Supremacy”, “Animals”, “Explorers”, and “Liquid State” were gems in otherwise murky waters, the rest of the album sounded like a science experiment gone wrong that ended in a explosion not unlike one in a cartoon. “Panic Station” and “Big Freeze” sounded like Queen and U2 birthed some kind of abomination that was like Freddie Mercury tried to perform a U2 anthem and it just comes out all wrong. “Survival” is cheesy, but decent enough. “Follow Me”, and both of the “The 2nd Law” tracks were Matt’s big electronic dubstep fusion experiment that at times was really interesting and at others was really dismal. This was easily Muse’s worst effort, and while it was admirable that they were trying to delve into somewhat of an ambitious territory, it just didn’t seem right for them to follow a trend that they unsuccessfully tried to embody.
So, when Matt Bellamy promised a comeback to rock n’ roll instrumentals without all the experimental electronic layering, there was reason to be excited. While I don’t like the idea of believing a band should try to replicate their earlier works, Muse needed to get back to their strengths while still approaching an interesting direction musically. To achieve this, they decided to write a concept album. At the time, all people knew was that it had to do with the empathy gap and war. Muse was not foreign to existential concepts, but I suppose it’s worth pointing out that after Absolution, Matt Bellamy’s lyricism tended to drift into the world of political focus, especially with The Resistance. If “Uprising” wasn’t obvious enough with Matt Bellamy chanting “we will be victorious” to the sound of a marching crowd, then I don’t know what to tell you. If the question was, “how can Muse get any more political than this?”, then the answer would be by making a concept album with an incredibly heavy political message. As such, Drones was born, 53 minutes in length.
While Drones deals with interesting ideas, such as the emotional gap between real life tragedy and people behind the barrier of technology, and the sparks that initiate conflict such as revolution and war, there couldn’t be a more heavy handed way of trying to express these ideas than to delve into the world of politics. The story of the album is about an unnamed individual who feels emptiness towards their surroundings, and as such, are easily coaxed into becoming a puppet for “dark forces” (as Bellamy puts it) to commit horrendous acts without consequence. Most of these acts, as you could imagine, are killing people, but the “drones” Bellamy talks about in this story are not vehicles but conditioned psychopaths that don’t feel the repercussions of the act. However, the protagonist finds that they can’t allow themselves to continue being controlled as a “human drone”, so they defect and begin a revolt to take down these “dark oppressors” and to overcome their effects on the world around them. While this is a decent concept at best, the obvious political message that isn’t shrouded with even a hint of subtlety spoils the impact.
Instrumentally, Drones is Muse at their best since even Absolution. While there are tracks that hint back to the softer side of Black Holes and Revelations such as “Mercy” and “Aftermath” which are more synth driven and upbeat, there are some real classic guitar driven Muse material that really takes on identities of their own. “Reapers” is a 6 minute guitar driven power ballad about the consequences of the protagonist’s actions, with instrumentals that hit harder than they have in a long time, emulating what made songs like “Stockholm Syndrome” so great and twisting that to make something even more fresh. “The Handler” utilize dark and brooding guitar and bass parts along with heavy drumming to propel Bellamy’s crooning acceptance towards the fate of becoming a human drone. Even after the breaking point in the album, Muse brings an anthem that puts “Uprising” to great shame with “Defector”, which maintains an upbeat tone with a hint of bittersweet from the rough instrumentals and the same kind of hard-hitting drumming that would support a march against oppression. The backup vocals have a strong presence in these tracks along with most of the album, and definitely shine in both this track and the album opener, “Dead Inside”. The biggest surprise to me was the staggering 10 minute climax, “The Globalist”, which starts out with the kind of whistling you’d hear in a spaghetti western, calling back to tones from tracks like “Knights of Cydonia” and “Hoodoo”, and definitely taking a note from their most progressive inspired track, “Citizen Erased”. This sprawling beast may be the best thing Muse has made in a long time, with an impressive buildup leading to an incredibly satisfying riff backed by the sound of voices emulating a choir of sorts. Finally, the song leads into a piano driven ballad up until the end, and comes to a satisfying close. Here, the album could’ve just ended, but the slightly underwhelming yet interesting “Drones” tries to embody a sermon of sorts, with overlapping vocals finally closing out the album with a big “amen”.
While there are some great tracks, this album definitely suffers from weak spots and jarring segues from tone. “Dead Inside” while an interesting album opener, using the metaphor of a failed relationship to resemble the protagonist’s hopelessness, tries to take another note from the Queen tribute sections from The 2nd Law, though with some improvement. The backing vocals are excellent and Bellamy’s voice is less Freddie and more of himself this time around, which leads to a stronger track in general. The intermissions, “[Drill Sergeant]“ and “[JFK]” are just kind of in the way, though while I wish the former wasn’t in at all due to the cringe worthy Full Metal Jacket impression. At least the latter segues excellently into “Defector”, which is a beneficial quality to contrast the obvious political affiliation. “Psycho” was probably the biggest disappointment since it was based off of a riff famous for being played alongside “Stockholm Syndrome” during their live shows, and just ended up being far too repetitive without variation, dulling the impact of the instrumentals entirely. Where “The Handler” and “Defector” both dabble in the dark tones from different perspectives, the latter is far too quick to change to a more elated upbeat rally with “Revolt” which starts with a fake-out which makes the song sound like it’s about to hit more ripping guitars but instead deals with synthesizers befitting a crowd waving a bunch of lighters to the sound of Bellamy crying out, “you’ve got the strength, you’ve got the soul, you’ve felt the pain, you’ve felt the love”. The same goes for “Aftermath” which is just kind of an odd track in general, although it echoes the same orchestral soft-spoken tone that later tracks in The Resistance had, but with a bit more flair.
If it wasn’t obvious, the weakest part about this album is the concept itself, but more importantly, the lyrics. I’d go as far to say this is Muse’s worst album lyrically, even worse than some of the cheesiest fodder that was written on The 2nd Law like “Madness”. The lyrics are too blunt for a concept album that’s supposed to be SHOWING, not TELLING. Matt uses the word “drones” far more than I think he should, trying to push the obvious drone metaphor so far down the listener’s throat it almost makes it all the way out the other side. Usually I’m lenient with a concept album depending on context and circumstance, but this is unacceptable. If the Drill Sergeant rambling and John F. Kennedy’s speech weren’t enough to support the blatant political backdrop, let’s take a line from “Reapers” which is an excellent song instrumentally, but drops a refrain like this: “You rule with lies and deceit / And the world is on your side / You've got the CIA babe / And all you've done is brutalize“. It’s hard to believe Matt read this more than once because reading it once was enough for me. Not to mention the chant that follows, “Killed by drones!”, echoing forever into blunt force trying to make one hundred percent sure that I know drones are NOT A GOOD THING. Namedropping the CIA is another good sign too because I know if I wanted to write anything with a hint of political focus to it I just need to name drop a couple of these: CIA, DEA, FBI, NSA, and I’ll be good. It’s a shortcut, and a very poor one at that. I even defended “Psycho” for having a line like “your ass belongs to me now” because it’s supposed to be from the drill sergeant’s perspective, but then there’s this: “I'll turn you into a super drone / And you will kill on my command“. Super drone? That sounds like when you’re a little kid and you want to make something sound greater than it really is. It’s not a drone, it’s a SUPER drone, and then the ULTRA drone is coming up next! Come on, you can make it sound more menacing than that. This doesn’t make me feel the “dark forces”, it just makes me have to stifle a laugh. That’s not right, Matt.
If you think I’m being too hard with the political aspects, then allow me to just point out some lyrical choices that are just plain bad. Where “Dead Inside” has a very obvious and easy to understand metaphorical approach, the lyrics are alright enough up until this last line: “On the outside I'm the greatest guy / Now I'm dead inside!” Excuse me for this, but this sounds a little too much like the internet white knight who is justifying why he can’t get a girl because they only like “bad boys”, and not enough like the hopeless, suffering, empty protagonist who has no direction in life. I mean, “Dead Inside” is a pretty hefty declaration to begin with. I’ve felt empty like that, but I certainly wasn’t making remarks that just sounded like I was being melodramatic. “Mercy” does the exact same things too, though lyrically the song is not strong at all, but when I’m supposed to be intimidated and horrified by “killing machines” and manipulative people, I can’t help but stifle another chuckle at a lyric that sounds more like a little kid complaining about the bully that stole their lunch money than a plea for help from oppression. “Show me mercy / From the gutless and mean“. Gutless and mean? That’s the best you can do for these “psychopaths who enable psychopathic behavior with no recourse”, Matt? It’s hard for me to feel the dark energy and apathy when there’s just too many lines that sound more like a Saturday morning cartoon villain than a realistic power-hungry tyrant. It sounds more like minor complaints than true suffering. I can’t identify with this grief-ridden protagonist or what they stand for because I’m not sold on their plight. Filling in the blanks and going, “oh right, manned drones killing people isn’t good and we should stop that” is not something I’m going to do for the sake of this album’s concept. When it comes to political albums that still tell a good story, American Idiot is the crown jewel, and the album’s name is the most blunt thing about it. Where subtlety is needed most conceptually and lyrically, Matt Bellamy does not deliver, and it’s a huge detriment the album. I feel like I should just not listen to what he’s saying at all and just enjoy the tone of his voice, for better or for worse. Matt Bellamy is a good lyricist, but this is an unfortunate turn for his lyricism.
That being said, where does Drones live in the Muse legacy? I’d say about in the middle. It’s on par with Black Holes and Revelations and when they said they were going back to basics, for the most part, they were telling the truth. I don’t think they could hold back from being a bit indulgent, but there are still some great tracks on here that I’d place as high as some off of Absolution and Origin of Symmetry (the latter being my favorite Muse album). Where there are weak spots, especially with the lyrics, Drones ends up being more of a surprise than a letdown, and in the end, I’d say it’s definitely worth a listen. Even when they decided to play around with ideas they began on The Resistance and The 2nd Law, they did them with a bit more grace and experience so that it didn’t seem like a repeat of where they went wrong originally. Stick around for the instrumentals and Bellamy’s strong vocal performance, and you’ve got yourself a pretty decent Muse album. I can only hope they choose to improve on the weakest aspects of this album and progress in a different direction for the better, but as time has proven, there’s no telling where they’ll decide to go next.
THE VERDICT: 7.3 out of 10
KEY TRACKS: "REAPERS", "THE HANDLER", "DEFECTOR", "THE GLOBALIST"
WEAKEST LINKS: "PSYCHO", "REVOLT", "DRONES"
ATTRIBUTES: BANKSY ALBUM ART, BLUNT FORCE LYRICS
GENRE BLANKET: ALT ROCK, PROG ROCK, SYNTH ROCK
MUSE - DRONES, 2015 © Helium 3, WMG
This is my personal opinion and I in no way am promulgating this as fact. If you like or hate the album, let me know! This is the first review I’ve done in a long time and I hope it was a decent read if anything. I hope to do more of these in the future. Thanks!
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Bematt added a blog entry in The Slip"Jenny Death When", or how Death Grips mastered the hype machineThroughout the past year, there's been a lot of disenchantment within our camp, just feeling let down by ourselves and everybody around us. I had been having conversations with my younger brother, who is 26. He's a major gamer; he runs [Dungeons & Dragons] at conventions and has been on 4chan since he was 14. So he's talking philosophies, strategies, different decks you use in Magic: The Gathering, and we started talking about the control deck. I'd been reading about parallel things that were totally separate from gaming: the idea of using peoples' powers against them. I mean, it's an insane notion [laughs]: "control decks" in real life. But I've always been very interested in magic-- more psychologically, like magical thinking. - Zach Hill, the drummer for Death Grips in an interview with music journalism outfit Pitchfork, 2012.
Once upon a time, there were three guys who lived in Sacramento, California who decided to create music together. Their names were Stefan Burnett, Zach Hill, and Andy Morin. Stefan was an ex-art college student who liked to paint and worked at a pizza joint. Zach Hill was a fairly well known drummer who had been part of the math rock scene, especially in the band Hella. Andy Morin was also a relatively well known individual whose strengths were in producing and sound engineering. Stefan and Zach were neighbors, and Zach already knew Andy from the music scene. Stefan had been briefly part of the hip-hop scene with his brother, but before Death Grips, not many people knew the name Stefan Burnett, or as he came to be known, MC Ride, the loudmouthed energetic front man who is part of one the most critically acclaimed and well known groups from the underground music scene. Death Grips combined hip-hop with erratic beats, cryptic lyricism, and abrasive energy. Along with the very reserved and secretive attitude of the band's members, Death Grips were as much a mystery as they were notorious. Hiding in plain sight, people were drawn to the way Death Grips were innovating with the idea of genre, and the aura that surrounded them. This blog post really isn't about the genesis of Death Grips, but rather, how they managed to spend nearly a year generating interest and leading on an entire music community to the release what was said to be their final album, The Powers That B. To get a better grasp on how Death Grips managed to pull this off, we need to start with their biggest career stunt to date. It all starts when they signed onto Epic Records shortly before the release of their first album of 2012, The Money Store.
PROLOGUE: NO LOVE
The first time Death Grips ever cancelled tour dates, it was very shortly after they began. After finally scoring a record deal with Epic due to the underground success of their first mixtape, Exmilitary, which was released in 2011, Death Grips released The Money Store to critical acclaim. Music journalism hailed it as revolutionary, and the album broke Death Grips into more notoriety above the surface with songs like "I've Seen Footage" and "Blackjack". Not long after this album was released, Death Grips then announced there would be a second album in 2012. For many bands, it was incredibly rare to have two albums in one year unless it was a double album or related to that format. It was also well known that Death Grips was going on tour during the summer, so the idea that they'd be able to make time to create a completely new second album was a mystery to the fans, and to their label. With all this coming up for the Death Grips, people were not sure what was going to happen next. In fact, nobody really had a grasp on the enigma that was Death Grips. It had started to disappear in bits and pieces through interviews, but for the most part, it was just Zach Hill talking, and most already knew that name. Stefan and Andy commonly remained silent and people heard very little from them. With all the talk of a second album amongst all these obligations, how would Death Grips make time?
They cancelled their tour.
Epic was angry. Fans were too. Death Grips sacrificed their entire tour to make their second album of 2012 a reality. This was the first sign that Death Grips wasn't just another band. Very few on a label would take this risk, and it was not hard to tell that the people that made up Death Grips were not afraid to take risks for their music. Even in anger, people were intrigued. They wanted to see how this album would turn out. For a long time, the name of the album was rumored to be "NO LOVE". During the latter half of 2012, an alternative reality game started to form. Death Grips used the 4chan board /mu/ and the deep web to convey this message, through images with encrypted files and deep web pages that were embedded with ciphers and codes of all sorts. For months, users cracked locked files and puzzles to gain further insight into what Death Grips was going to do with their new album. It's important to mention that this ARG set up Death Grips as the kind of band who used cryptic methods with their fans to garner interest and to keep up the mystery. At the end of it all, people discovered that the new album's full title would be NO LOVE DEEP WEB. Not only that, but the album was coming out on October 1st, 2012. It's important to also mention that there was one last file in the ARG that nobody was able to open, and to this day remains a mystery.
One more thing: Epic refused to let Death Grips release it in October. So instead, Death Grips released it themselves.
For all the months they were recording, Death Grips wasted the label's money at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, California. They stayed there and had a grand time, recorded a large amount of footage which ended up being used in promotional videos for Adult Swim and the video for "Come Up and Get Me", the album's first song. This is also the legendary hotel in which a particular bathroom, Zach Hill wrote NO LOVE DEEP WEB on his penis, took a picture on it, and decided to make it the album cover. Yes, NO LOVE DEEP WEB was more than just an album, but also the legacy of how it was created, and what Death Grips were willing to do to get their music released. After their self-release stunt, Epic very briefly and quickly cut ties with them. The reaction to this was wild, and Death Grips was applauded. This was the stunt of a band who wasn't afraid of anything, not even consequences, as long as it meant their music was being released out into the world. Death Grips knew how to use the forces to their will. This was the first example. It wouldn't be until 2014 that they would decide to do this again, but even more cryptically, and for an even longer period of time.
It would work, too.
PART 1: "WE ARE NOW AT OUR BEST AND SO DEATH GRIPS IS OVER."
Fast forward. It's 2014. In late 2013, Death Grips released Government Plates to a polarized reaction. Instead of Death Grips' conventional abrasive energy, their sound had turned into something more electronically influenced and erratic. MC Ride had very little presence on the latter half of the album and the entire album was uploaded to Youtube in a series of strange videos, most of which were made in Blender, with two of them being recorded footage. One had MC Ride having a very adverse reaction to something as the first song on the album played, and the second was Zach Hill (in a skeleton mask with a hat on) and Andy Morin with a flashlight going through a park at night as the last song of the album plays. This album confused many people, but some wished to embrace this new chapter of Death Grips. After parting with Epic, Death Grips rarely did interviews. In fact, they were even more reserved and private after their record deal than before. In the time that had passed, Death Grips were able to make a special deal with Harvest Records to run off of their own branch of the label known as Third Worlds. With this, Death Grips had a lot more control over their material.
Early 2014, people are wondering if even more new material is coming. thirdworlds.net, the Death Grips official website goes down for an extended amount of time. Suddenly, talk of the Blood Moon ARG comes into play. It's important to note here that Death Grips has a fixation with constellations and the alignment of the moon and planets, especially Andy, whose studio pictures commonly have pictures of planets in them. This is the entire basis for the ARG in question. For the most part, people believed Death Grips were going back to the ARG format to convey details for another new album coming in 2014. It wasn't rare of them to release music so close to each other in succession. The funny thing is that they weren't wrong. The other funny thing is that the ARG was fake, propagated by German rap duo Tim & Shim to promote their new album and as a ruse to the Death Grips fans. Needless to say, people weren't entirely happy about this, but by the time this fake ARG panned out, it turned out new music wasn't that far away.
June 8, 2014. Out of the blue, completely unannounced, Death Grips release a download link for Niggas on the Moon, the first part of their newly announced double album, The Powers That B. People go wild. This is new material that hadn't been talked about a single time since the release of Government Plates. This new material ends up being even more polarizing than the last. Ride's lyrics are cryptic to the point of being esoteric. His flow is sometimes fast and incredible and other times slow and brooding. On top of that all, the beats are insane, and Zach's playing V-drums to trigger samples of Björk. Yes, turns out the Icelandic singer/songwriter and Death Grips are good friends. This won't be the first time that Death Grips turn out to have interesting acquaintances. People are very interested now. If this is the first part of an album, where's the second part? People knew nothing about it, and Death Grips were about to go on tour with Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails! This was Death Grips hitting the big leagues of touring. Another summer tour and how were they planning to work out this second disc of their proposed double album?
They cancelled the tour again. Actually, they broke up.
They posted a breakup note on Facebook, and then people went wild. It's July 2014, and I'm going to the NIN tour myself, and The Dillinger Escape Plan is there instead of Death Grips. Trent Reznor apologizes on Twitter, and everyone's confused. "We are now at our best," they say. People weren't sure how to take the sudden breakup. Many thought there was no way they were broken up, and that they were doing this to get out of the tour for some reason. Others believed this was the last of Death Grips and they wanted to go out on a high note. In any case, the fanbase was in turmoil, and they didn't even know where the rest of the album was. However, in the aforementioned breakup note, before the notorious "stay legend" line, Death Grips name dropped the second disc to their unfinished double album.
It was called Jenny Death.
PART 2: JENNY DEATH WHEN?
This is MC Ride's face from the famous
for the album Government Plates. For the entire song, Stefan's face is about this close to the camera. His expressions are about this vibrant. It's not quite clear if he's on any substances or if he's just going hard in front of the camera. Regardless, this image is less about the video it's from, but more about what it represents. Starting from the breakup note, this face would be the figurehead of all Death Grips discussion in the following months. It would be this very image, this very face, this very smile, with three very simple words amounting to what is a very simple question.
"jenny death when"
At this point, all people knew were one half of the album, and the names of both the second half and the entire double album. At this point, there was only album artwork and track listing for the first half, which had already been released. Up until October, this question would have no good answer. People were starting to resort to theories, going back to planetary movement and the moon to gauge a date for the album. People knew so little that they only had names to go on, but they wanted to know. Death Grips breaking up had just made people more interested in the album's entire release, and so, "jenny death when" threads and discussion were incredibly common, and not entirely productive. As the summer ended with complete radio silence from the band (or conceptual art project, as they had self-proclaimed), people were grasping at straws. Many people were convinced that a certain date in October coinciding with planetary retrograde would shed some light on the mystery of the second half's release.
Coincidence or intuition? In an ironic fashion, this is the only time the community's long reaching guesses would ever hold any weight. On October 10th, 2014, an update to Third Worlds came out of nowhere. Finally, after months of wait, the band finally released the covers of both Jenny Death and The Powers That B as a whole. The former was a neon depiction of Marilyn Monroe (who's original name is Norma Jeane Mortenson, the "Jeane Morte" presumably being where Jenny Death's name comes from) and the latter was a picture of a ground light from the "I've Seen Footage" music video with the Death Grips name scratched into it. Later it would be found that this was taken at the London Heathrow Airport. The back of the double album contained a picture of MC Ride from the even older "Guillotine" music video with the "ath" letters missing from the Death Grips name. Many tried to gain insight into this, thinking it was a hint towards the future of the album's release. This page would stay pretty much the same until the album's inevitable release, with the same ominous text branding the top of the page.
"Our new double album "The Powers That B" is now complete. Digital and physical release dates coming soon."
PART 3: INANIMATE SENSATION
December 9th, 2014. It's been a couple months, and the theories are still floating around. One of the big ones seems to almost be right on the mark, but not quite. In the song "Up My Sleeves", which opened the first half of the elusive double album, Stefan revealed a personal detail about himself that people thought was the key to the album's release. As ridiculous and unreliable as these theories were, the line "My dead mother in my dreams/Remember when December blew her ashes 'cross my jeans" pointed people towards December as the second half's release. After all, Death Grips had claimed it would be released "later this year". How much later could they release it than December? Well, it wasn't the album that Death Grips got in early December, but the very first taste of it. Behold, "Inanimate Sensation", the first single from Jenny Death. Once again dropped without any word, this song caused a huge commotion. It seemed as if the second half of The Powers That B would be a lot different than the first. Where Niggas on the Moon was esoteric, frantic, and sometimes incomprehensible, this song was a lot more of the vein of early Death Grips, combining abrasive lyricism with heavy production. Zach's drums were also far more prominent in this track, and it was easy to see that this wasn't just a song that hearkened back to their early material, but also going somewhere even greater.
This video was also the comeback of the living, breathing, MC Ride. His face had not been seen much since Government Plates, but now he was back in full form with hair, a hat, and giant googly eyes. Yes, this was an interesting sample of their new music, and where people were hitting walls with theories and baseless assumptions, Death Grips has extended their hands once again. Hype for the album came back in full force, and December came as the month where many were convinced the album would be released by the end of the month. People picked apart this video to look for hints towards the future of Death Grips. There was a lot for fans to contemplate, and they waited eagerly through the Christmas season to see if Death Grips would deliver.
They did not.
In fact, Inanimate Sensation was all fans would get for quite a bit. Many felt betrayed (though they weren't technically promised a release by the end of 2014) that Death Grips didn't live up to their "end of the year" release stated by the breakup note. They had broken all the rules just to get NO LOVE DEEP WEB out by the release date. What had changed? What fans didn't realize is that Death Grips were changing up the rules again under their nose. What would come as 2015 rolled into being was a frenzy of speculation and theorizing that was unparalleled with the hype it was producing. By simply releasing one song without any more information, Death Grips had gotten the community talking again, and people were begging for more.
There would be many discoveries, real and fake. In the midst of it all, Death Grips discussion dominated inside the Death Grips communities and spreading onto indie music boards. People continued to spread across the "jenny death when" message, people wanting more and more to know when the album was coming. This was the beginning of a craze.
PART 4: THEORY CRAZE - @bbpoltergiest, RETROGRADE, GRAVEYARDS, FAKE ARGS, SPECULATED RELEASE DATES, AND MORE
Let's back up a little bit before "Inanimate Sensation". In November, the vinyl record service Record Store Day had a RSD event, and the prize was an incredibly limited 900 pressing release of Government Plates on vinyl. Many were unable to get this copy before the scalpers would, but with a choice few getting it who were real fans, there were pictures. One thing learned is that Robert Pattinson (yes, the guy from Twilight) played guitar on the track "Birds", and was apparently good friends with Stefan, as seen in a
chasing Robert around before a Beyoncé with MC Ride himself there. The other thing is that the license plate replica that came with the vinyl copy had a code on it, which had what seemed to be a timestamp on it for 12/24. Christmas Eve. People believed that this sudden release had the key to the release of their new album, but as I mentioned before, Death Grips did not deliver on Christmas Eve. They did not say anything during the month of December following Inanimate Sensation.
In the time that follows, people figured out a key fact in the sea of assumptions that turned out to be true. The twitter, @bbpoltergiest, which many believed was fake, turned out to have some credibility. With Death Grips being notorious for making new Twitter accounts, both their previous Twitter accounts, @deathgripz and @bbpoltergeist (ei, instead of ie) had been taken over by fans. @bbpoltergiest, however, was a mystery which turned out to be of interest when people noticed that in August, months before Inanimate Sensation was released, there was a picture of the basketball court in Blender posted on the Twitter account. This basketball court was the exact same shown in the background of the Inanimate Sensation music video. Along with pictures of previous tour items and emails from the Death Grips email account, people decided that this Twitter must be real, or very convincing. Up until the album's release, this Twitter would be monitored all the time. Death Grips, full well noticing this, took advantage of the situation, sometimes retweeting posts about themselves in mass amounts to set people off. This was a key point of interest. This very twitter claimed things like "we're going on tour" and "everyone thinks we broke up but we didn't.", making people wonder if their speculation about Death Grips using their breakup as a stunt turned out to be the truth.
As December was coming to a close, people were grasping. People monitored planetary motion and phases of the moon. Fans were desperately trying to find a date of significance that would make sense for the album to be released, if it lied in the stars or if it lied in the Death Grips history. Nobody could say for sure, but the hype was building to colossal size. Many thought that locating the place on the Jenny Death cover would shed some light on the album's release. Others believed that finding out who "Jenny" was would lead to some conclusion as to when the album would come out. There were many theories that it had nothing to do with Marilyn Monroe, but the death of "Jenny" somewhere in Sacramento, where Death Grips were from. Many figured that if they could find the cemetery on the cover of Niggas on the Moon, they would discover something. An image started to revolve around about "Baby Jenny" buried in a Sacramento cemetery. Many believed this was the aforementioned location, but there were differences that gave many doubts. These theories did not pan out.
In between all that, there were many fake alternate reality games being created to fool people. Many who were still familiar with the NLDW ARG believed that some of these could be real, but they never were. One ended with the entirety of a Childish Gambino skit inside of a locked .zip file. Others just ended with plain images that made it clear that none of these were real, and that the reality of the situation was that until Death Grips themselves said anything, there would be nothing to learn. It was a long month for Death Grips fans, and many went into 2015 very disappointed.
Then thirdworlds.net went down.
PART 5: FASHION WEEK
Once upon a time (again), Zach Hill mentioned that he was directing a movie, speculated to be called The Sickest Fuck Of Them All. Death Grips as a whole confirmed they would be doing the soundtrack for this movie, and then news of this disappeared.
Here are the facts. Out of nowhere, Death Grips drops an instrumental album with no MC Ride in it. Fourteen tracks, completely nothing to signal that this was coming, and once again the Death Grips had sent the fans into a frenzy. Many were not sure what to think at first, but it was even more interesting when people realized a few things. First: Sua Yoo, the artist who created the artwork for The Money Store is sitting in that chair. Second, this chair is located in the Silver Legacy Casino in Reno, Nevada. Third, and maybe even the most important, each track starts with "Runway" and then is followed by a letter. People didn't understand the significance of this until they imported the album into their music players, and saw the track list in full.
All the track letters spelled out: JENNYDEATHWHEN. Yes, "jenny death when".
Once again, people were at a loss. However, as interested as ever, fans got to work. Many believed that the title of this abruptly released album had something to do with the upcoming fashion weeks happening in Sacramento and in the California area. Around this time, sites like Amazon and cduniverse started jotting down the double album's release as being February 10th, 2015, which was around when the Sacramento fashion week began. The coincidence between these two events got people guessing that this would be the real release date, and that things were coming to a close. Death Grips started to increase in activity as well, releasing new merchandise that had people wondering if this was finally the end of this long wait.
In the wake of this, many were creating fake track lists for Jenny Death, which was just harmless fun. However, the interesting part of this was the timing. Not too long after this started to catch on, a website page on HMV Japan showed the tracklists for both sides of the album. Many people believed that somehow this was a fake tracklist that somehow go onto the info of the website, considering the track "Have a Sad Cum" was listed incorrectly as "Have a Sad Cum BB" and that the track names like "On GP" (which many thought meant On Government Plates, which in retrospection is kind of silly) and "Death Grips 2.0" were just fabricated and that there was no concrete proof that this listing could be concrete.
Now it's February 13th, right before Valentine's Day, and there's still no album. The fashion week theories are starting to fall apart. People were losing hope until all of a sudden, the Death Grips YouTube channel was active once again, and this time, the insight was even more interesting than before.
PART 6: THE REHEARSAL VIDEO, THE PHANTOM LISTINGS, @bbpoltergiest DEATH AND REBIRTH, AND THE FINAL THEORIES
So this rehearsal video drops, and people are wondering a few things. First off, the entire video is blue and you can make out Zach Hill drumming and Stefan in the distance rapping, presumably in front of a mirror or a door. The second thing is that it's almost impossible to distinguish much from the audio due to its mass distortion. Through context, people figured out that a few minutes in, they start playing "Inanimate Sensation". At the very end of the video where it cuts off, they're playing "Lock Your Doors" from NO LOVE DEEP WEB. Then people started to realize that all the material in between doesn't sound like anything they've done before. It's then and there that people realized this was a rehearsal video playing songs from Jenny Death. The first song playing was speculated to be the first track in the discovered track listing, "I Break Mirrors With My Face In The United States", because people could make out Stefan yelling "I BREAK MIRRORS WITH MY FACE IN THE UNITED FACE" at the beginning. The unidentified tracks playing for the rest of the video were speculated to be "Turned Off" and "Why a Bitch Gotta Lie" which were also from the track list. This was the confirmation people needed to believe that the track list was real.
With "Lock Your Doors" in the video, people also believed that they were rehearsing for a tour.
For the rest of February, a considerable amount of "phantom listings" were coming up on sites like Ebay and Amazon. The album would be put on a listing for sale and then would be removed or altered considerably. Many record releases on Ebay were by foreign sellers (especially Japanese sellers) and would commonly be pulled from listing or refunded. Many people could not figure out if the listings had any concrete product to them, but it was thought that this was a sign that copies of the album were finally being put into physical form.
At the same time, the new release date that was being speculated was "March 31st, 2015". However, near the end of February, the release date on Amazon changed from April 2015, and then to some date in 2020, signifying that the listing had no concrete information attached to it. People were unsure if the March release date was going to be real or not. At this point, there was still not enough to go on for people to be able to believe fully in the release of the album being this close.
In the midst of this, @bbpoltergiest closed after a long night of retweeting "I hate Death Grips" tweets. Many believed that this was a sign, but they didn't know what of. A week or so later, the account reopened before someone could claim it, and the Twitter tweeted images from the "Loser" music video by Beck. Nobody could understand what this meant until they realized that the date of the music video's upload was March 8th. On March 8th, 2011, Death Grips officially released their first song, "Full Moon (Death Classic)" to the world. The final theory that people had was that the album would come on this date to celebrate the history of Death Grips. This was a well founded theory, but before the date could come to confirm it, @bbpoltergiest finally broke its silence once again to drop the information that would finally signify an end to the long wait fans had been going through for the release of what was said to be the final release in Death Grips history. However, in the very same post, Death Grips basically confirmed one more thing.
They were really going on tour. Death Grips were alive again.
PART 7: THE FINAL STRETCH: SNIPPETS, WAITING ROOM RECORDS, ON GP, A RELEASE DATE, AND THE LEAK THAT BROUGHT JENNY ONCE AND FOR ALL
It's a few days before this tweet comes into existence, and on the website bol.com, the track list comes up again, but something is completely different.
That's right, the songs finally have a preview, and it confirms a few things. The track list is real, the album is close, and that this album was going to be something different. In tracks like "Beyond Alive" and "Centuries of Damn", a guitar was very clearly present in the songs. Many believed that this was Nick Reinhart from Sacramento rock band Tera Melos, who Zach Hill was good friends with, and whose twitter was filled with cryptic references to Death Grips. Some also believed Robert Pattinson might have some part in this, considering his surprise contribution on Government Plates.
Then this tweet happens, and people are not sure what to think. Finally, dates are starting to be dropped. People have very little doubt of @bbpoltergiest's legitimacy, and people decide to ditch the March 8th theory instead to wait for March 17th.
They don't have to wait that long. On March 12th,
This is the first full song drop since Inanimate Sensation back in December, and with the snippets out in the wild, people were starting to finally believe that the album was finally getting released. The very next day, Death Grips release what is called a featuring the physical vinyl copy of The Powers that B and a well known Sacramento magician, Russell Brown. It seems that they had lost the right to use the original Marilyn Monroe image for the album cover, but people are still hyped. March 17th comes, and @bbpoltergiest rings true. Days before, Harvest Records had accidentally put the album up for preorder. After taking it down abruptly, Death Grips officially announced the release date of their album, March 31st, 2015, with the release of the title track, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVSHMKizsgg.
Now it's March 18th. Illinois based Waiting Room Records announces a listening booth and provides a picture for the physical release of the album. People who live in the area go down to see if it's a physical release for purchase. Turns out it's not, but a few manage to record a bit of the listening booth tracks before leaving. The album is so close that people almost can't stand the wait. Many wish that they could have gone home with the physical CD to release it for the world, but they were unsuccessful. People go to bed disappointed, but still excited now that the album was in arm's reach.
The very next day, on March 19th, 2015, Jenny Death leaks. Lyrics for the album were scanned as well as the credits, confirming Zach's v-drums on the first half of the album and Nick Reinhart's contribution to the album, as well as Zach Hill's high school friend Julian Imsdahl playing organ and guitar on some other tracks. Finally, after almost a year long wait, the album is finally here. Death Grips, realizing this, decide to stream the entire album on their own channel out of good faith. For an album many were claiming "would never come out" it almost seemed unreal that it was finally here to listen to.
Thus ends the tale of "jenny death when".
EPILOGUE: THE POWERS THAT B
It is now March 26th, 2015. I'm writing this and the album has been the hands of music listeners for a week. Death Grips did confirm a tour on the 24th, and tickets are going on sale on the 27th. This album is critically acclaimed and has been a huge focus in music discussion along with Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly. The most interesting part of this whole thing is how Death Grips captivated an entire community of fans and music listeners and kept them guessing, wanting, theorizing, proclaiming, and creating for almost an entire year just for the release of one album, and not even that. Just the second disc of one album. They wanted the completion of what was thought to be the final album in the Death Grips legacy. With this tour and some subtle comments from the group themselves, it seems that this might not be the end of Death Grips at all. Should they be criticized for faking a breakup and ditching a tour for the sake of music? Maybe, but whether you despise them or admire them, the fact that they managed to keep this up for months and months on end is incredible. As a fan of this band, the music is all the more amazing knowing what they've gone through to build up the excitement for all of this.
Death Grips is not only innovating music, but they're innovating communication from band to fan, and they're innovating the way an album is promoted. Considering I was here for about every part of this journey, I have to say that it was an interesting experience. Zach Hill's talk of the "control deck" was brought up near the end, and it makes so much sense. Death Grips had to know what fans were doing and theorizing, and they used those forces against them to keep them guessing. They were completely successful, and it gave all fans an experience to resonate with the entire album.
So where are Death Grips going next? Who knows, and it's hard to theorize. The group is as mysterious as they've ever been, and as they go into their tour and into the future, if we've learned anything from this experience, it's that you can never predict what they're going to do next. Chances are they're already one step ahead.
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