100 gecs Defy Expectations On 10000 gecs, For Better or Worse

The irreverent hyperpop duo’s sophomore album leans hard on big riffs and baffling choices.

Music Reviews 100 gecs
100 gecs Defy Expectations On 10000 gecs, For Better or Worse

In 2019, Dylan Brady and Laura Les released their debut album as the enigmatic duo, 100 gecs. Immediately, the world recognized that 1000 gecs was something exceptional. It arrived at its perfect moment, in the wake of pop’s future becoming a ripe topic of conversation among the music press. From Charli XCX’s visionary 2017 mixtape Pop 2, to the rise of A. G. Cook and his enterprising label/artist collective PC Music, to brilliant, groundbreaking work of SOPHIE, artists were coming from niche spaces and had their eyes set on pushing the boundaries of popular music. Critics praised the ambitious, freewheeling nature of 1000 gecs, and the record landed atop year-end lists. Their national profile rose swiftly, seeing them playing the festival circuit, open for Brockhampton, as well as selling out their own national tours. Their 1000 gecs remix album, The Tree of Clues served as a victory lap and featured an eclectic array of artists including Fall Out Boy, Rico Nasty, Nicole Dollanganger, and Injury Reserve. 1000 gecs also broke the world of “hyperpop” wide open. The group’s irreverent blend of synthpop, chiptune and pop punk inspired leagues of young artists playing within the same online space to try their hand at this new, trendy micro-genre. Just under four years later, the contentious discourse around hyperpop —whether it is a genre or not, and whether it’s a music scene or not—has died down considerably, Spotify’s playlist notwithstanding. When you proclaim something emergent as being pop’s future, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes pop’s present.

In September 2021, the duo announced in an extensive profile that their sophomore record would be called 10000 gecs, increasing things by one more order of magnitude. Though they tossed off singles “mememe” and “Doritos & Fritos”, more news of the album’s future wouldn’t surface for another year. In the meantime, Les and Brady released an EP, Snake Eyes, that recalled some of the explosive hyperpop highlights of their debut but never transcended them. Moreover, Snake Eyes offered little insight into where these genre pioneers would take hyperpop next.

10000 gecs gecs is not a hyperpop album, though. It isn’t even really a pop album. 10000 gecs is a chimera of every tangent left unexplored on its predecessor. Pop punk, nu-metal, and ska, all genres that have faced varying degrees of derision by the music press, are shoved to the forefront, to mixed results. The first three tracks belie this, though, deceptively placing a trio of glittery, if guitar-heavy, bangers at the top of the tracklist.

Opening, genuinely, with the THX Deep Note, the record’s best, and most pop-leaning track, “Dumbest Girl Alive” is the sort of cheeky, delightfully unserious thing that endeared people to the duo’s debut. “I got lightning in my veins / walk around like Frankenstein / I did science on my face / I’m the dumbest girl alive” Les proclaims through her signature warbling autotune. Heavy guitar riffs bounce off stomping drums and squelching bass synths. When it reaches its apex, it’s nearly impossible not to bang your head along.

The single “Hollywood Baby” has a similar power with its sledgehammering pop-punk guitars. The melody here is what draws you in, and likely won’t leave your head for a few days after you hear it, but the way Les and Brady work it into their mad experiments is the real showstopper. As the band gained prominence, people pulled out acts like Brokencyde, 3OH!3 and Breathe Carolina as influences on their sound. “Hollywood Baby” is their most explicit attempt at making something that feels at home in a 2010s Hot Topic alongside those bands, and might be catchier than the sum of their respective works.

If the rest of the 10000 gecs were as impactful as these songs, the record could be seen as a clever eschewing of expectation for something fresh. Instead, every other song on 10000 gecs is confusing, grating, or undercooked. They’re experimental, sure, but in the same way as a science fair volcano. The baffling ska-meets-The Wiggles “Frog on the Floor” kills all momentum. It could be endearing as a sketch, a cute song about stumbling across a frog in the middle of a house party, but it overstays its welcome as Les and Brady expound upon this premise for three minutes. It’s one of the longest songs on the album.

“Frog” isn’t the only place that ska bursts out like a jump scare. “I got my tooth removed” starts as a swaying torch song before erupting into a mess of horns. This isn’t the first time a call to “pick it up!” has graced a 100 gecs song; “Stupid Horse” was a highlight of the debut. However, “Frog on the Floor” and “I got my tooth removed” are so much more straightforward. Without the electro-pop flourishes given to “Stupid Horse,” they feel dead on arrival.

The Limp Bizkit pastiche “Billy knows Jamie” suffers from its lack of originality. While the world waited for this album, artists like Poppy and Rina Sawayama successfully blended the bravado of nu-metal into pop music to great success. For a duo we’re used to seeing on the cutting edge, it feels too little too late. Similarly, “757,” though a much better song, feels like a retread. The most hyperpop-inspired moment on the record, you could easily pass it off as a song by Food House, the duo of Fraxiom and Gupi that emerged in the aftermath of 1000 gecs.

Like any artist following up a successful record, 10000 gecs was always going to suffer from great expectations. While it keeps the duo’s cocky, chaotic spirit at its core, the material never feels like a step forward, nor does it ever capture the magic of their debut. Though, these pop music jesters may be better off like this. Finally, they can make ridiculous, catchy songs without having to be figureheads.

Eric Bennett is a music critic based in Philadelphia with bylines at Pitchfork, Post-Trash, and The Alternative. They are also a co-host of Endless Scroll, a weekly podcast covering the intersection of music and internet culture. You can follow them on Twitter at @violet_by_hole.

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