Published Jul 09, 2020100 gecs tend to elicit a lot of strong opinions, as well as a lot of questions: Are they for real? Did they just call someone a "piss baby?" Is "Stupid Horse" the greatest ska song of the decade? Just what is a "gec" anyway, and what happens when you get 100 of them? But seriously, they're just a joke, right?
Their new remix album, 1000 gecs & the Tree of Clues, offers few straight answers. But, as its title suggests, it does shed some light on the mindset driving Dylan Brady and Laura Les. First and foremost is the impressive community of artists they've rallied to rework material from last year's mind-bending 1000 gecs.
That the PC Music crew would be fans is perhaps the least surprising thing about the record. Their shared musical aesthetic ensures that PC Music signees and affiliates A.G. Cook, GFOTY, umru, Danny L Harle, Hannah Diamond and Charli XCX, account for six of the 14 remixes here. They're joined by a grab bag of admirers and fellow travellers, including Fall Out Boy, Injury Reserve and Canadians Nicole Dollanganger and the recently disbanded Black Dresses.
Perhaps the overriding themes — of both the originals and the reworked versions here — are an adherence to a wholly artificial musical aesthetic punctuated by a total lack of subtlety. The creeping bass line that begins what is essentially Fall Out Boy covering "hand crushed by a mallet," is jarring for its organic "real instrument" sound.
By design, Tree of Clues is a sonic grab bag. But unlike most remix records, the originals were themselves a grab bag of sounds that could have passed for remixes in the first place. In that sense, the record is a strong rebuke to those who have dismissed the duo as a joke or dilettantes.
While all the artists bring their own voice to the project, they never manage to fully subvert 100 gecs' own aesthetic, which tends to throw emo melodies, nu-metal breakdowns, breakbeats, pitched-up vocals and shards of pretty much every microgenre from the past decade that you've barely heard of into a blender. There's a similar adherence to the basic song structures and melodies that appear on 1000 gecs, further proof that Brady and Les are far savvier popsmiths than they get credit for.
Two wholly new tracks and two live takes are appended to the end of the album, along with a pair of live tracks. Though they immediately function more like bonus tracks in the context of the record itself, taken in the context of the duo's career trajectory, they feel like an attempt to flesh out 100 gecs as a wholesome artistic project, one capable of building on what's come before. New song "Came to My Show" is as strong as anything on 1000 gecs and showcases the duo's pop chops, while the live tracks prove that they can move in more traditional spaces, doing the things bands are "supposed" to do, however outmoded those things might be.
Though their music can be playful and funny, 100 gecs are very much not a joke. 1000 gecs & the Tree of Clues makes it clear that Brady and Les know exactly what they're doing and that they've got an army of highly inventive and creative supporters standing with them. (Dog Show)