Ska. Nightcore. Death growls. Hyperpop. 100 gecs, the musical duo of Laura Les and Dylan Brady, blasted into the mainstream music consciousness in 2019 with their debut album 1000 Gecs, and they pulled out every trick they could think of to do it. Their rise has been steady but sure since then, as they went from memes on online music forums to one of TikTok’s rising stars.
100 gecs catapulted into even greater popularity with a July remix album, 1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues, featuring artists such as Charli XCX, Injury Reserve and Fall Out Boy. This, along with the band’s popular TikTok sounds, has sparked a conversation often led with the question: What the hell is this?
Parents, siblings, friends and anyone with a tangential understanding of 100 gecs will often spout the same few lines: it’s garbage disposal music, it’s weird, it’s trying to work in too many genres, it’s not even fun to listen to. Yet the most common refrain is not critique, but confusion: “I just don’t get it.”
That’s a familiar line. It’s been said about Nirvana, Prince, Pet Sounds, Igor Stravinsky and jazz. These words, a lack of understanding, should be taken as a sign. To the speaker, they offer a moment of self-reflection and a realization that they are no longer as young as they once were. If a listener doesn’t understand 100 gecs, they will understand what it is like to feel old. To lose one’s youth is tragic — 100 gecs, the sages of the modern day, know this.
100 gecs is part of something much bigger. Hyperpop as a whole is representative of a culture and philosophy built as a result of 9/11, climate change, American exceptionalism and the failure of electoral politics. It is a coked-up escape from the horrors of modern life. The philosophy 100 gecs preaches is a new nihilism, and it’s one that the youth of today have begun to embrace. It is not shrouded in black, bleakly chain-smoking cigarettes in a French cafe, dismayed at the grim nature of existence. It instead proposes a celebratory apocalypse — if the world is ending, we might as well party. In the early 21st century, Americans saw the neoliberal dream, Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history,” come crashing down. The millennials found themselves losing hope; Generation Z never even had it.
This is what 100 gecs sounds like. Pain and agony are wrapped in a saccharine, numbing package. The “1000 gecs tree,” an unassuming pine in Des Plaines, Illinois, offers helpful insight into the mentality of those devoted fans who make the pilgrimage to the tree on the cover of 1000 Gecs. Discarded objects of bygone youth litter the surrounding area — Pokemon cards, Neopet plushies and various Deadmau5 and Hatsune Miku baubles. The tree, like 100 gecs itself, is symbolic of an anarchy swallowed by consumerism. The band’s music is a scream into a soundless void.
This is not to say 100 gecs sounds bad on purpose. That would strip Les and Brady of a lot of deserved credit, because, frankly, 1000 Gecs and its accompanying remix album are well-executed and thoughtfully done. The chaos of the music hides the craftsmanship behind it, a delightful gift to those who have tasted the duo’s forbidden fruit and accepted its knowledge.
Lyrically, 100 gecs often describes a dead-end, midwestern existence. On “800db Cloud,” a somber tale of heartbreak quickly jumps to a brash and rowdy descent into drugs and excess, as crunching drums emphasize lines such as “I’m addicted to Monster, money, and weed.” As its title suggests, “Gecgecgec” is composed of 58 robotic utterances of “gec” before a touching auto-tune serenade, in which Les sings “Please remember/ Baby, I’m not stronger than/ Stronger than you.” The very next song, “Hand Crushed by a Mallet,” blasts the listener with massive bass hits. This amalgam of lyrical and musical content turns 1000 Gecs into an almost incomprehensible electric potpourri.
That’s nothing compared to 1000 Gecs and The Tree of Clues, in which remixes abound with little to no care for their original forms. Charli XCX and Kero Kero Bonito offer the hyperpop, PC Music angle, bursting with lighter and sweeter auto-tune. Fall Out Boy and the ska leanings of “Stupid Horse” are a throwback to forgotten middle school days, and many of the remixes take the dubstep influence to an 11, blasting drums and bass at ear-shattering levels.
100 gecs is an unapologetic reflection of an unapologetic youth, a frustrated and angry generation who has seen its predecessors either actively destroy the world or do nothing to contribute to its survival. If you don’t “get” 100 gecs, it’s fine. Forgive yourself. But understand that hyperpop is where the culture is right now. Let the kids have this one — or get out of their way.