Review Summary: more gecs per million
Years before every chump on the internet started pondering what the value of fleshy human artistry is if you can feed a prompt to a neural net and get a pretty landscape out of it, 1000 gecs
offered an answer that inspired and entertained millions, and annoyed just as many: keeping you on your toes, dumbass! A machine can only aim to please, to satisfy a need; a musician
can do whatever they want, and on their 2019 debut, that’s exactly what the gecs did, flailing gracelessly between mangled electropop and even-more-mangled just-about-anything-else, with a puckish disregard for the conventions of any and all of the genres they corrupted in the process. The results were, yes, an uncommonly fertile breeding ground for catchphrase-fueled viral bops like “Money Machine”, but more pressingly a splatterhouse of frantic bait-and-switching where any given style’s second-to-second value was predicated near-exclusively on its ability to jostle listener expectations. “Stupid Horse” worked less because it offered any kind of actual fresh spin on ska as a genre than because ska made for such a hysterically unlikely/unexpectedly cogent pairing with its boneheaded lyrics and with Laura Les’s digi-emo sneer that the question of artist intent became an engrossingly absurdist puzzle box.
If you’re in it for the shitposts, the most damning thing to be said for the duo’s new album 10,000
Gecs is what a distressing percentage of it is old meme. 100 gecs’ zany hyperpop, blown-out industrial blurts and (sigh) ska simply cannot command the same consistent level of comedic tension as on their debut; even their newly-predominant metal influence rapidly becomes simply “something 100 gecs does”. When the rap-rock of “Billy Knows Jamie” condenses into an overdriven deathcore breakdown, any genuine amusement is undercut by the creeping feeling that I’m just laughing at a “800db cloud” reference, and “one million dollars” fares even worse, mistaking the trollishly brilliant switch-and-bait of “gecgecgec” for a mere test of patience to stretch a punishingly unfunny vocal chop over a minute or so of pounding racket. The tracks that do find new shapes for the gecs to stretch into are, no coincidence, the funniest by far, between the portentous-sounding-yet-DIY-toned 80s-thrash-guitar march breathing life into trap-pop confection “Dumbest Girl Alive” and the squishy Brill Building swoon that kicks off “I Got My Tooth Removed”, with the latter offering the one genuine out-loud laugh of my first several listens, and even enlivening the plain-jane pickitup
it’s paired with.
It really is an unfair paradigm, though, and an unsustainable one too! Burning through a half-dozen new genres for the lulz every album cycle does not a long nor profitable career make, so fittingly, much of 10,000 Gecs
is geared more towards the real musical act with live dates and a recording contract that 100 gecs very much weren’t when creating their debut. When it’s analyzed with this in mind, there’s a lot more to be said for 10,000 Gecs
. For one, the production sound is beefier across the board, and showcased with aplomb by the brain-puckering glitches of “757”. For another, Laura Les and (to a slightly lesser extent) Dylan Brady are really stepping up to the plate lyrically. Singles like “Hollywood Baby” and “mememe” certainly present the kind of internetty, laced-with-[existential]-angst 'voice' that justifies the duo’s position as trendsetters in their field, and there’s loads of ear-pleasin’ quotability to be had in lines like “put emojis on my grave”, “At 7-eleven/I’m drinking a beverage”, and of course “gimme all of those f*ckin’ Doritos and Fritos”. Besides this, 100 gecs offer ample room for in-depth queer readings of “I Got My Tooth Removed”’s discomfiting blend of medical and emotional dysfunction or “Dumbest Girl Alive”’s aggressively gendered self-denigration. The album's red meat is apportioned sensibly between fans and critics; a square meal is had by all.
Even by these more traditional measures, though, they don’t quite come away with a clean sweep: “Doritos & Fritos” wastes its bonkers atonal-harmonic intro riff and chunky, driving Faith No More groove on a total non-event of a hook, “Billy Knows Jamie” pads time similarly with a bland festival-punk interjection, and “the Most Wanted Person in the United States” finds the gecs’ more low-key side markedly less likable when stripped of the bubblegummy dynamism that animated “ringtone”. The album’s overall focus on rousing, shouty choruses and live instrumentation makes it seem less specific to the dingy, un-hip bedrooms Les & Brady came from and first found favor in, more streamlined for tours and crowd singalongs. In many ways, 10,000 Gecs
is consummately the album 100 gecs were supposed to make, and far from the worst possible version of that album to boot. But we already have a whole industry of artists making the albums they’re supposed to make. The internet keeps on spaghettifying all human expression into Soylent green and Laura Les and Dylan Brady have been among the brave few to stand athwart its spigot screaming "lol, lmao". If they’re joining the rat-race of “having a sound” and “making good music”, it’s awful hard not to wonder if it's already too late for the rest of us.