Credit: Atlantic Records
by Michael Doub Featured Music

100 Gecs — 10,000 Gecs

March 24, 2023

For an era-defining band like 100 gecs — singer/producers Dylan Brady and Laura Les — it’s surprising that so few conversations about the group tend to involve talking about their actual music. gecs’ debut album, 1000 gecs — one of the final masterpieces of the 2010s — was mostly overlooked when it dropped in 2019, with critics tending to favor the music of safer contemporaries like Charli XCX and Caroline Polachek. Perhaps realizing their mistake, this tastemaker subset kicked into sweaty overdrive to explain gecs the following year, identifying their embrace of “low culture” signifiers, Laura Les’ trans identity, and the group’s engagement with digital life as being reasons for their unique now-ness. While these qualities do speak to gecs’ significance, their next release — 1000 gecs and the Tree of Clues, a full-length remix album with an astute guest list that’s practically a monument to hyperpop — was also overlooked, despite being a pulverizing work of similar consequence. And gecs’ glacial timeline for releasing a follow-up, during which artists like Jane Remover and brakence embellished the contours of sounds that gecs molded, has prompted some epitaph inscription for the duo, in effect declaring gecs deceased before awarding them in life. Fittingly, given these unflattering meta-narratives, the provocations of the excellent, finally-here 10,000 gecs are largely musical. Adopting a crunchier, guitar-centric guise, gecs’ new record sees the group shed some of their computerized allure while remaining the silliest of polyglots, “selling out” in the most eccentric terms possible.

The duo’s shift towards Y2K-era terrestrial radio was signaled in advance by pre-release singles like “doritos & fritos” and “Hollywood Baby,” whose tidier structures suggested that gecs were not necessarily interested in being mind-blowing shape-shifters any longer. While 10,000 gecs is more oriented around traditional riffage, the 26-minute record ultimately achieves a more holistic balance than these singles suggested, presenting ten genre exercises that match the extreme tonality of gecs’ previous works (if not their specific sonic character). Following the familiar shimmer of the THX theme, a serrated guitar lead declares gecs’ intent to rock on opening song “Dumbest Girl Alive,” its synthetic bass squelches resembling torpedos bouncing off an energy shield, and Les’ magnetic performance capturing the desperation and exhilaration of freefall. “757” overlaps the most with gecs’ earlier style, its auto-tune oscillations entwining with gated drums that boom loud before eventually fading in an emotional denouement, the song emerging as if from the digital ether in its coda. 10,000 gecs’ singles are also improved by album context; in particular, “Hollywood Baby” now sounds less like a “Beverly Hills”-aping victory lap than a poison pill pretending to be one. And where “One Million Dollars” — a thick slab of 3OH!3 homage — might have been an electronic abstraction on previous albums, here it’s a 64kbps dubstep track affixed to a funk metal bridge reminiscent of Mr. Bungle. Though the song doesn’t make having seven-figure wealth sound especially fun, its compressed collisions embody 10,000 gecs’ flexibility with genre and form in microcosm.

10,000 gecs’ non-rock homages are also dynamic, if initially head-scratching. On rager “Billy Knows Jamie,” gecs’ longstanding affinity for nu-metal is codified in song, its twisty riff and record scratches recalling — yes — Limp Bizkit, and chunky chords/Cookie Monster vocals later taking things into not-so-nu metal territory. Meanwhile, the Cypress Hill-sampling “The Most Wanted Person in the United States” — with its Neptunes-esque bounce and spoken word delivery — brings gecs close to genuine hip hop; while an uncertain prospect on paper, gecs’ self-effacing playfulness keep the reference-heavy song from ever sounding disingenuous. The most divisive cuts may end up being gecs’ winsome, goofy forays into ska (the bouncy “Frog on the Floor” and “I Got My Tooth Removed,” which resembles Reel Big Fish run through a Kidz Bop filter at 1.5x speed). If an objectively less cool package for gecs’ omnivorous footprint, both songs could plausibly be subverting genre and metaphor to disguise darker content — a violent squatter in the case of “Frog,” and a painful romantic rupture on “Tooth.” Or they could simply be songs about a frog on the floor and getting your tooth removed. gecs aren’t anonymous, per se, but on 10,000 gecs the duo are so in on their own joke that it’s hard to know how much veracity to ascribe to their songs’ narratives; as Brady repeats in closing song “mememe,” “you’ll never really know anything about me.” His and Les’ carefully cultivated generality has long been a core component of the 100 gecs project: both members obscure their faces on album covers, and their persona as 100 gecs is instead defined by the hyper-specificity of their musical and pop-cultural interests. This ethos of building one’s own identity out of everything else in sight is arguably this modern band’s most modern quality, and on 10,000 gecs their reach extends to impressive lengths.

Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 12.