Friday, March 24, 2023

Album Review: 10,000 gecs by 100 gecs


Someone, somewhere, poses the question: “What if Captain Beefheart had a solid understanding of music?” 

Someone else says “Well, duh, that’s not an original thought, many have posited that question. But what if Blink 182 were electro house?”

The third guy is like “What if Kimya Dawson did metal?”

The second guy speaks up again. “That’s just stupid.”

Meanwhile, guy number four slowly turns his attention away from the winow he was staring out of, and with a sigh, pinches the bridge of his nose and prepares to speak. He is exhausted. He has no time for all of these questions. He has just finished running the marathon that is 10,000 gecs.

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Coming in at a cool twenty-six minutes and fifty-three seconds (twenty-seven minutes would have been too slow and for the weak), 10,000 gecs doesn’t get there by walking. 

100 gecs are no strangers to moving rapidly against the grain. Their first album clocked in at just over 23 minutes. Dylan Brady and Laura Les have always had an unusual sound. Their music has been described as “hyperpop,” and they are one of the foremost modern groups of the genre. Though much of their early work was accomplished by exchanging Logic Pro files in what Les herself referred to as something of “an exquisite corpse-type thing,” Les moved to Los Angeles prior to the production of 10,000 gecs, meaning she and Brady could work more closely together on the new album.

The sound synonymous with THX kicks off the album, immediately grabbing your attention and letting you know you should be ready to focus on the sound. These aren’t SONGS, they are high-fidelity audio experiences. They are also songs, I would never discount the work done in songwriting by implying that the album is merely a soundscape, but they are not just songs. Well, “One Million Dollars” is a soundscape, but even it pulses with the energy of a human heart on a party drug. 

“Dumbest Girl Alive” is a fast-paced poem. There’s no chorus, just the refrain of the title at the end of each verse. The track itself dips into a pizzicato section halfway through that’s incongruent but not unwelcome. It’s almost like being in a cartoon chase scene and suddenly going underwater for a spell. 

I tried to go into this review totally blind, but when I got to “Hollywood Baby,” I confess that I did recognize it as a single. It’s the third of four singles released from 10,000 gecs. It might be the most palatable song on the album, but I would personally have a great deal of trouble arguing that it’s the best one. “Hollywood Baby” isn’t nearly as chaotic as the rest of the album, and it suffers for that. It’s a good song, but not the best up for offer, proving this is definitely not a case of the band getting the single to reel everyone in and then providing nothing of substance for the rest.

“Frog on the Floor” is silly, but silly with a suit and tie on, sonically. It sits on the musical couch smoking with ska and anti-folk. Of the songs on the album, “Frog on the Floor” is the most fun, a complete contrast to the later “Billy Knows Jamie.” “Billy Knows Jamie” is the most tonally dark track, dipping musically into nu metal and lyrically into drugs and gun violence. 

By the time we arrive at “I Got My Tooth Removed,” the slow, sparsely-instrumented start makes you think you’re going to get a little break- but then the drums kick in, and then the sprint starts back up again, launching us into my favorite song on the album, a polka-riddled, genre-bending love song about the breakup between a person’s tooth and their mouth. And yes, I realize the genre of the majority of the song is, once again, ska, rather than polka, but this song does much to remind me that ska is only the grandkid of polka trying to rebrand himself away from the family name (“Polka was my grandpa’s name, I go by Ska”). “I Got My Tooth Removed” is the longest song on the album, by the way. Three minutes and seventeen seconds, and it holds the title of “longest song.” Just in case you forgot we were RUNNING. Speaking tangentially of running, Ska is a running thread throughout the album. But it’s the kind of ska you hear playing in your head when you see a photo of people in checkerboard prints, Tripp denim, tiny sunglasses, and bucket hats. It’s fun, it’s new, it’s a ghost of what was once called ska (even with Alex Scillag from Save Ferris lending trombone to “I Got My Tooth Removed”). This also, notably, isn’t a ska album. Or a pop-punk album, or an anti-folk album. It’s not nu-metal, it’s not house, it’s 100 gecs. 

After “mememe,” the album just…ends. My Youtube Music decided to start playing something it thought was related and I realized and turned it off to digest. It ends…too soon somehow? Like I said, it races to the finish line. You’re running right alongside it the whole time, yet for some reason, the album's end just feels like it abandoned you. 

This is a stereo setup kind of album. I can’t even imagine listening to it quietly on a record, and I am a fan of records. Of course, I also don’t imagine it being one to listen to on earbuds…you need chunky headphones or a home stereo system that makes you feel like the guy on the old Maxell Audio logo. Or you can listen to it in your car, which is what I did. Not the best option, but if you do, at least make sure both of the speakers are working. The production is too important to miss. It’s smart, it’s sharp, it’s funny. I can’t think of many other albums on which the production feels comical. I don’t mean comically bad, I mean joyous, giggly, inviting you to come and be part of the in-joke. 10,000 gecs doesn’t explain the in-joke to you- you have to figure it out, but you are absolutely welcome to try. 

Laura Les and Dylan Brady are 100 gecs.

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I am reading the book How to Write About Music, an instructional textbook from the makers of the 33 1/3 book series. Eventually, my dream is to write a 33 1/3 book, so I'm trying to take things seriously. My first "assignment" was to write a review for an album I would never normally listen to. I'm not brave enough to dive completely into the deep end musically, but I heard some co-workers discussing this album and decided I would listen to it despite never having listened to the band before. If this review seems a little strange coming from me, that's why. By the way, what a great assignment. I genuinely love this album and I never would have listened on my own. 

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