In 2012, as my high school classmates and I awaited the end of the world, I discovered a genre of music known as nightcore. 14-year-old me was already somewhat well-versed in the wide array of early 2000s electronic music genres, having transitioned from Christian-rock-loving middle schooler to rebellious-but-not-subversive high schooler. The monotony of my predominantly white suburb gave me a propensity towards loud, boisterous music, where I could sit in my bedroom and imagine I was at a rave in Europe instead of writing AP World History notecards.
Nightcore appealed to this rebellious streak—essentially, it takes pop-electronic music, boosts the bass, and speeds it up to whiplash-inducing tempos. For a 14-year-old, the chipmunk-style vocals, thumping low-end, and super fast beats were like Four Loko: energizing, intoxicating, and unapologetically gaudy. I drank it right up.
My music tastes meandered through a number of other genres in the next four years of high school, from other electronic music like Avicii and Hardwell to the melodic screamo of post-hardcore (think Pierce the Veil and Bring Me The Horizon). Having grown up during the advent of internet culture, nothing was sacred, and my tastes, like the internet at large, followed an “anything goes” ethos governed by the quick dopamine rushes of exciting images and sounds.
I’ve since mellowed out a bit—R&B and indie-pop have taken over my top genres—but there will always be a special place in my heart for my high school music. That’s what intrigued me about a late night text from my friend Justin recommending the group 100 gecs: “It’s everything you love about trash music I promise”. I pressed play on the first song off the duo’s 2019 album 1000 gecs, “745 sticky”, and was welcomed by a distinctly familiar form of heavy production, deep bass and pitched-up vocals. The Four Loko was back.
I momentarily paused everything I was doing to listen to the 23-minute, 10-song album. Then, I listened to it again. And one more time. 1000 gecs was like a scavenger hunt through my past, with beats, vocals and effects bringing me back to deeply buried memories from my cringey adolescence. Nightcore was there. So was post-hardcore. So were more recent indulgences like Lil Uzi Vert, JUICE WRLD and Tierra Whack. My memories continued to meander. Somehow, I remembered the random series of genre-mashup songs I found on YouTube in 2014, including this alphabetical song, its sequel and a series of multi-genre covers.
Skrillex-level drops and screamo interludes aside, I started to listen to the lyrics. “Hey you lil’ piss baby,” starts the second track, “money machine.” “You think you’re so fucking cool, huh? You think you’re so fucking tough? You talk a lotta big game for someone with such a small truck!” Trying to write about the profundity of these lyrics seems ridiculous, but honestly, is there any better encapsulation of how it feels to be alive in 2019 than, “I MIGHT GO AND THROW MY PHONE INTO THE LAKE, YEAH.”
This album moves at the pace of a Twitter feed, jumping from incomprehensibly distorted screaming to melodic meditations on failed horse betting to a lighthearted jingle about a custom ringtone, all before you can fully comprehend any of it. “800db cloud,” one of my favorite tracks off the album, starts out with a simple guitar chord and the lyrics, “He said I love you on the plane, I said I love you too.” Barely 15 seconds later, a heavy drop interrupts the calm romance as the same voice sings, “I’m bout to hit the boof” (Full disclosure: I have no idea what this means). Another drop, halfway through the song, holds the line, “I’m addicted to Monster, money and weed, yeah.” At the end, the whole thing devolves into ultra-distorted heavy metal chaos—a fitting conclusion if ever there was one.
In some sense, 1000 gecs is music for Carhartt beanie-wearing cigarette-smoking art school kids who revel in weird shit solely because it’s weird shit. The sporadic beats and disparate styles certainly don’t seem like they would appeal to everyone (“Music you can't comfortably show to friends is the best kind of music,” reads one top YouTube comment).
But for those of us who grew up in the bizarre early days of social media and indulged our counter-cultural streaks with music, there are bits and pieces of 1000 gecs that are instantly recognizable in a uniquely joyful way. Leaning into this album felt gleeful, full of both the nostalgia of hearing something familiar and the excitement of hearing something unlike anything I have ever heard before.