What would the world make of 10,000 gecs had there been no 1000 gecs? Would there be any discussion about whether Laura Les and Dylan Brady’s music can be characterized as hyperpop? The status they’ve gained since the release of their 2019 debut ensures that critics can reasonably refer to them as a “hyperpop duo,” but no one could confidently make the case that hyperpop is what they make. They shouldn’t, anyway, because who cares at this stage? It’s an uninteresting and irrelevant argument. Still, you have to wonder what kind of response 10,000 gecs would garner without the context and hype of its predecessor – would The New York Times be prompted to ask, ‘Is 100 gecs the End of Pop, or a New Beginning?’ Probably not, but Les and Brady seem like they couldn’t care less about carrying that torch. Have you actually listened to their music? They’re here to pull a few pranks and stir shit up, and they’re absurdly good at it.
Yet there’s a reason the word “genius” gets thrown around when talking about 100 gecs; there’s something at once nerdy, casually innovative, and genuinely anarchic about the way they approach musical boundaries that’s hard to describe using any other term. They’re still experts at deconstructing ideas around genre and pop culture, and they do it for the thrill of it more than any intellectual purpose. It’s just that this time, their interest leans not so much in the direction of a much-maligned pop era than less reputable forms of alternative music, from pop-punk to thrash (and nu) metal, reappraised and revitalized through the same lens. But 10,000 gecs still feels like an extension of the group’s debut because it retains their unique ethos – smart and mindless fun – and deceptively silly, madcap aesthetic. At its best, the album refines those indelible qualities in a way that’s infectious and refreshing. But some of their attempts to double down on what makes gecs gecs comes off as a little misguided and confusing, as if they’d spent so much time honing the material that it became hard to determine how best to elevate it, inevitably coming up with uncertain retreads of the original idea.
Where each song lands on the irritability scale is, of course, subject to interpretation. There are songs that will be enjoyable no matter how many times you hear them, experiments that are both stupid-catchy and cleverly executed. For most people, singles like ‘Hollywood Baby’, ‘Doritos & Fritos’, and ‘Dumbest Girl Alive’ should fall in this category. While tracks like ‘757’ are a little too straightforward and on-brand to stand out, these highlights relish overabundance without hinging on shock value or burdening themselves with too much irony. Some of the most delightful moments are unexpected details, from the THX Deep Note that opens the record, to lines about a frog “telling croaks at the party” and “Anthony Kiedis suckin’ on my penis” (more cock rock pastiche than diss, really), to the melancholy that seeps through on the otherwise ridiculous ‘Dumbest Girl Alive’. Yet with the exception of that track, there’s a sense that increased exposure has made 100 gecs a little warier of building on the subtle sincerity of their debut, even if the added nuance is there.
It’s why I find ‘I Got My Tooth Removed’ one of the more frustrating novelty cuts here; it pokes fun at the earnestness of the breakup song format when there’s not much earnest emotion juxtaposing it elsewhere on the record. It was fun hearing the song live last year – they’ve been playing most of these songs since 2021 – but I assumed it might be one of the hundreds of demos that wouldn’t end up the album. As teeth-hating gecs songs go, I’d much rather take ‘toothless’, an additional track off the remix LP 1000 gecs and the Tree of Clues that’s equally sticky and upbeat without being bogged down by its own concept. ‘Frog on the Floor’, on the other hand, makes you feel like you’re a guest on the party the titular amphibian curiously interrupts, so it’s an absurd diversion you’re more likely to go along with. There isn’t a song on 10,000 gecs that isn’t at least intriguing, and because of their knack for melody and frenetic production, even the more grating ones may end up growing on you.
While the group’s breakthrough spawned several think pieces about the future of pop, 100 gecs have always seemed more interested in the impact of their music rather than what works in theory or reinforces their stature. But there’s moments on the new album that feel like statements that play into that perception, an attempt to mess with the listener’s head like it’s messing with theirs. Is ‘One Million Dollars’ a repetitive, inconsequential musical exercise, a commentary on the TikToktification of music, or a self-conscious freakout about having more resources than you’d ever thought you’d need? If their general intentions are, by that point, not entirely clear, they end the record by striking just the right tone. “You’ll never really know/ Know-know-know, know-know-know/ Anything about me,” goes the chorus of ‘mememe’ – rowdy, frilovous, and direct. It can certainly be read as making a point about parasocial relationships in the internet age, but the way it jumps off the page – the vulnerability of the verses, the way the chorus begs to be sung by a crowd – how can it not be an invitation to connect, cultural barriers be damned?