Let me introduce you to the two poles in pop and rock. One is marked by authenticity, musicianship, a certain traditionalism. This is the pole that in critics’ discourse is called ‘rockism’ – the assumption that rock (or, at least, real people playing real instruments) is the normative state of music. The other is artificiality, brashness, a disdain for heritage – a celebration of everything that is inauthentic, where a good idea is worth 100 guitar lessons. And that pole is known as ‘poptimism’. Poptimism is why you end up with learned essays in the New Yorker analysing the singer Ariana Grande nicking a doughnut from a shop with reference to the work of John Ruskin. (Yes, that really happened.)
The US duo 100 Gecs are firmly at the poptimist pole. Their music fizzes, almost literally. It’s like a packet of sherbert dropped into a bottle of Tizer, possibly with a bomb of MDMA thrown in, too. It’s all E numbers, artificial flavours and colours and more added sugar than you could weigh. At times, at the Forum – so hot the air seemed to hang with sweat – it was like watching an avant-garde reimagining of the Australian children’s entertainers the Wiggles. From the moment Dylan Brady (in a wizard’s hat and cloak) and Laura Les (also in a multicoloured cloak, but no hat) walked on stage, it was much more like being at the circus than at a rock show. It was both confounding and fantastic.
100 Gecs have become just about the hippest thing in pop, in a way that would (and should) utterly mystify anyone old enough to have teenage kids. They make, say, Duran Duran look like the Velvet Underground in terms of seriousness of purpose, even if their music is the result of magpie minds and a keen vision.