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Two years ago, Martin Scorcese published a prescient and passionate essay warning against the rise of “content.” He defined the term in relation to cinema, but it could just as easily apply to music: “’Content’ became a business term for all moving images… it has created a situation in which everything is presented to the viewer on a level playing field, which sounds democratic but isn’t.” Recommendation algorithms, Scorcese argued, flatten the works into categories that are too broad and generated by what you’ve already engaged with. Our paths of artistic engagement perpetually narrow until they resemble a clogged artery.
100 gecs are making the best of this bad situation. Since 2017, Dylan Brady and Laura Les have used sculptor’s precision on the cultural fatberg of content, embracing the siege-like quality of music’s modern distribution to create pure sonic distemper. Not since The Weeknd has an initially independent artist changed music so quickly and resoundingly — as the subgenre of hyperpop that gecs helped create has faded from relevance, the duo face newly elevated stakes with 10,000 gecs, their major label debut for Atlantic.
“Dumbest Girl Alive,” the project’s opening track, helps make the case that the misfit spark of 100 gecs can endure beyond any one scene. It launches with a THX Deep Note that fishtails with a DJ reload spin and some gunshots, a whiplash-inducing introduction with a John Oswald playfulness. With a cry of “Woo,” shreddy riffing and blown-out drums (courtesy of Josh Freese) take over. This is what pop-punk should look like in 2023, not the endless cascade of overpriced reunions and cash-in comebacks. Laura Les matches the mess in her lyrics: she’s Frankenstein’s monster with too many over-the-counter pain meds in her system, stumbling from one self-inflicted disaster to another.
Her vivid description of a washed-up troll is one element in an assemblage of bold creative decisions. For me, the cherry on top is the growling kick drum ripped from Travis Scott and Drake‘s “Sicko Mode.” It belongs to that song as much as the opening synth of “Beat It” is inseparable from Michael Jackson‘s hit, and for almost any other artist, using it would be distracting at best. But 100 gecs are masters of a new content-driven musical lexicon where everything is beautiful and nothing is cringe, and you can be the stupidest person ever and still be smarter than our current moment in history.