The American woodcock—colloquially referred to as a “timberdoodle” or “hokumpoke” in some areas—is a chubby, exhibitionist shorebird with stout legs and a long beak. When it scouts for worms, it rocks its body and stomps its feet in a funky little dance-walk; ditto when wooing potential mates. In April, Laura Les and Dylan Brady of the avant-garde pop duo 100 gecs posted a TikTok of three woodcocks—one adult, two babies—doing this strut, soundtracked to an array of beeps, honks, xylophone hits, and squeaks. (They made the audio.) Depending on your imagination, the final product looks like a bird family humping invisible Bop Its or competing in an intense round of Dance Dance Revolution. All of it is quintessentially gecs—the “beep boop” cacophony; the playful iteration on a meme; the subtle sweetness. Most of all: It’s weird. It’s fun. Don’t think too hard about it.
According to one oft-told account, the name “100 gecs” originates from an accident in which an online lizard retailer shipped Les too many live geckos, leaving her with 100 instead of one; in the vast constellation of memes, “100 gecs” feels like an intellectual predecessor to “30-50 feral hogs.” On their 2019 studio debut, 1000 gecs, the duo’s arch, impish humor popped up in aggro copypasta-style taunts (“Hey, you little piss baby/You think you’re so fucking cool?”) and tragicomic tales of betting on a “stupid horse.” They specialize in hyperactive collisions of “uncool” genres: ska, dubstep, and ’00s metalcore, not to mention the sort of witless EDM that convinced you “I’m a vegetarian and I ain’t fucking scared of him” was the sickest diss ever. Writers often compare listening to their music to the whiplash of thumbing through digital feeds, but 100 gecs resist the cultivated eccentricity common on Twitter or TikTok, eliciting instead the spontaneous freedom of riffing in a group chat. Listening to 100 gecs is like watching your buds test out tricks at the skatepark: it’s less about precision and polish than the act of being together and having a good time.
For their remix album, 1000 gecs and the Tree of Clues, Les and Brady have assembled a rowdy crew of friends, including expected PC Music affiliates like Charli XCX and A.G. Cook and new faces like Fall Out Boy, Rico Nasty, and alt-rap group Injury Reserve. 100 gecs’ music already sounds reconfigured; a remix album just pushes their techniques of extraction, warping, and recombining further, lending Tree of Clues the novelty and depth of an original. While the original “xXXi_wud_nvrstøp_ÜXXx” already interpolates Soulja Boy’s long-distance classic “Kiss Me Thru the Phone”—released a year after the invention of the first iPhone—the Eurodance-inspired remix digs deeper into the exultant rush of the late ’00s. Estonian rapper Tommy Cash hams it up with a Soviet Pitbull impression: “Mr. Worldwide … International killa!” Meanwhile, Hannah Diamond and Dylan Brady pine over untouchable lovers. Its chorus of entering and disappearing voices evokes DJ Earworm’s 2009 “United States of Pop” mashup; both reassemble the shiny debris of the ’00s into new shapes, eulogizing bygone optimism. “Let’s go all the way,” Brady trills, the same giddy, romantic dare from Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” a decade ago.
The guests skillfully mold the originals into creations of their own, while still preserving some of the songs’ initial ideas. Dylan Brady was already channeling Fall Out Boy on the original “hand crushed by a mallet,” so hearing Patrick Stump bellow on the remix alongside Craig Owens of post-hardcore band Chiodos and Canadian singer-songwriter Nicole Dollanganger makes the original feel like a demo. Noise-pop duo Black Dresses’ thrashing interpretation of “745 sticky” magnifies the chaos and hedonism documented on the track. Unfortunately, Injury Reserve’s attempt with the same song is less successful. Their version of “745 sticky” is buried under extraneous car honks and clown squeaks, but the growling, voracious “GODDAMN” in the second chorus almost rescues it. Peculiarities like these keep things lively. “Please hold while I connect you to a rock hard wet gec,” Dylan Brady purrs in a sweaty phone sex monologue on the Dorian Electra-assisted “gec 2 Ü.” GFOTY and Count Baldour’s “stupid horse” remix kicks off with an actual whinney.
Perhaps the biggest transformation occurs on “gecgecggec.” The original is a whimsical assembly of crime-scene music, game-show-style sound effects, and more, with incessant “gec gec gec gec”-s that sound croaked by brainless seagulls. The remix is a gummy pop-rap song. Those “gec” sounds are looped into a beat over which Lil West raps about bitches, racks, and convertibles. “If she wanna fuck, she call me,” he brags, adopting a DaBaby flow. But this cold, cocky front slowly crumbles, as Atlanta rapper-singer Tony Velour ends his melodic verse on the concession, “You got my strongest love.” By the time Laura Les appears, the mood is of complete and utter vulnerability: “Baby, I’m not stronger than you,” she wails. Online, skeptics wonder if fans only like 100 gecs as a meme; and yet, their sincerity hides in plain sight. The sad “gec 2 Ü” becomes sadder when Danny L Harle emulates Owl City’s burbling, saccharine production. Its wide-eyed innocence only underscores the tragedy of the premise: two people failing to meet each other’s needs, thunderous bass pounding like chunks of hail to emphasize the force of their agony.
In a recent interview, Les confronted a sore spot in the coverage of 100 gecs. “We’re having fun,” she clarified, “we’re not fucking being ironic.” The duo began seriously working together after being invited to perform at Minecraft festivals, where artists attempt things “too stupid or too funny” for Spotify release, like cramming 30-40 songs into a 20-minute set. 100 gecs’ music feels tailor-made for a world like Minecraft, full of childlike pixelated figures wandering free in a vast, lonely landscape. On “came to my show,” one of two original songs on the album, a high-pitched voice whimpers, “I can’t believe you came to my show/It hurts when you don’t.” It’s a pure, wrenching distillation of the simple desire for someone to be there for you. While swerving through memes, genre pile-ups, and decades, 100 gecs crash into one idea over and over: There are always missed connections.
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