Here we go….here we fucking go again. Leave it to Death Grips to say one thing then do the exact opposite, and time after time fans (your writer included) get suckered into believing whatever they state. “We are going on tour” translates to “You have a 50-60% chance of us coming on stage” “We got major label support” means “We ruined a cooperate bathroom and took their money” and apparently the story of today is “Jenny Death is our last album” which actually means “LOL JK guys here is another album”. Fair enough, since for the past four years the only constant in the Death Grips world is that there is no consistency, and I guess at this point that should be accepted. That being said the never ending rabbit holes we go down are definitely intriguing enough and will surely create plenty of fun “You had to have been there” moments. The seven (maybe? who knows) albums that will eventually embody the Death Grips discography are merely pivoting points in a strange and bizarre story that will get lost as time progresses. It’s been a fun ride.
Ever since No Love Deep Web’s release at the end of 2012, Death Grips has opted to venture very far from the style of the first three albums, which despite their general ludicrous nature were still relatively normal in structure. Hip-Hop and Punk were smashed together like atoms on a supercollider creating some of the most unfathomable music of the first half of this decade, but despite all that it rarely ventured far from the basic template of verse-chorus-verse and frankly that is a good thing. When they opted to go in a less structured direction with Government Plates and Niggas on the Moon the music went from astounding to challenging, and some of the fun was lost in the murk of insanity that was overflowing. So where does Fashion Week fall into this whole matter? While Government Plates and Niggas On the Moon embodied a far deviation from the original three albums with sparser vocals and less traditional song structure, Fashion Week opts to go as far away as possible, trying to stand on its own vocalless merits. Surely it is not like Death Grips is any stranger to vicious deviation, but considering one of the cornerstones of the group has always been the homicide-in-a-bag vocals of MC Ride this is quite a change of pace. We are left with the burning question of “Is it any good?” and the answer is a whole load of “It depends”.
Death Grips puts itself in a very precarious position here trying to capture the essence of Death Grips while omitting one of the most critical components of the group and it ends up being a success, but not in a Death Grips way. Yes, there are very Death Grip like moments in the album, with gristly and unappealing beats and sounds such as on the first Runway H (I have to make that distinction) where the somewhat video-game like music turns into a one drink too many stumble or on Runway E (the third one this time) which has a high anxiety vibe. Other moments such as Runway D seem miles away from what drew so many fans to Death Grips in the first place. In its own universe it is sonically cohesive, but in the larger sphere of the Death Grips universe it stands out tremendously.
Even as a stand alone experience this a relatively eclectic combination of sounds ranging from purely electronic to featuring live drums or guitar work. Even on the purely electronic tracks there are some tricky percussives. You can tell Zach Hill had his hands all over the beats, such as on Runway J, when they ebb and flow as to what beat they are actually keeping time of. I have always been a fan of his work even if at times it can be an exhausting experience. The music has such a wide spectrum, but this is to the albums advantage as it makes it feel much more expansive that it might really be in reality. For the most part they succeed as at no point did I feel like the tracks were blending into each other endlessly. It never feels like this was a collection of scrapped ideas just glued together, but one thought-out idea.
With that said the tracks, while featuring some really creative sounds, repeat themselves a decent amount and without a guiding voice can feel a minute longer than they need to be. Personally I did not mind as I enjoy exploring the nuances of Death Grips‘ sonic creations, but for those that are into a more surface level experience you might be done with each number half-way through such as Runway Y which does provide curious little touches along the way but never breaks out of its shell or the third Runway E (I feel ridiculous writing that) which feels like it is in need of one more layer to truly make it work. I should also note that the only version that exist right now is a 192kbps download that features some audio clipping on certain numbers. Yes, I love that the music is free, but I’d love a higher bitrate and heck I’d spend a few bucks to have it.
If you are a fan of Death Grips you likely already have downloaded the album, applied more tinfoil to your hat and posted in the subreddit about your theories surrounding the album. If you hate them you already have rolled your eyes for the Nth time and have moved on as well. I am open about my adoration for Death Grips although at times even I have to put my hands up in a big ol’ “what is this?”. Each time something new came out I was foaming at the mouth eager to digest and analyze it over and over. The problem is that with Fashion Week I did not get that response. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but I wasn’t overjoyed or aggravated to any extent, rather just content. It is a welcome addition to the legacy, but one that comes off more as a curiosity than a stand out which is a problem as each album before has caused some kind of “what the fuck” moment. When we are talking about a band that lives exclusively on “what the fuck” moments, a lack of any is the biggest insult you can give.
Rating: Non-Offensive, but worth a go through.
For fans of: Instrumental beats, Hip-Hop
Highlights: Runway….oh shit I forgot.