In music and on roller coasters, speediness makes for the fun kind of scariness. When young punk rockers raised on the Ramones began to play their own music in the early 1980s, the rat-a-tat rumble of “Blitzkrieg Bop” accelerated into something called the blast beat: an all-out rhythmic carpet-bombing over which vocalists would groan about Satan, Ronald Reagan, and the resemblance between the two. This development pushed rock and roll’s intrinsic logic—through dissonance, truth; in disaffection, pride—and invigorated new genres such as hardcore, grindcore, and death metal. In a 2016 book, the critic Ben Ratliff argued that blast beats also reflected a new technological landscape: “They were like the sound of a defective or damaged compact disc in one of the early players, a bodiless slice of digital information on jammed repeat.”
Today, no drum kit is required for musicians to glitch and twitch with terrifying intensity. Open up any audio-editing software, pull a few sliders in one direction, put the resulting ugliness on loop, and there you have it: a headbangable hell-scream into eternity. Such sounds are everywhere online these days. On TikTok, I recently came across a series of videos in which teens compared how their parents wanted them to dress with how they actually wanted to dress. As preppy sweaters gave way to nose rings and black fishnets, the music flipped from a saccharine sing-along to a harsh digital pounding. The latter sound was like a car alarm outfitted with a subwoofer—but for some reason, it beckoned to be played louder, rather than to be shut off.
These TikToks deployed a remix of music by Dylan Brady and Laura Les of the band 100 Gecs, which has helped pioneer this era’s emerging misfit aesthetic. On the surface, the duo’s 2019 debut album, 1000 Gecs, is a prankish, postmodern collage of Skrillex, Mariah Carey, Blink-182, Nelly, Linkin Park, Kenny Loggins, eurodance, and ska. What glues together such clashing influences isn’t just a sense of musicality—though Brady and Les are excellent songwriters—but a fascination with a musicality. The vocals are manipulated to achieve the whininess of SpongeBob SquarePants. The grooves fracture and reroute habitually. The harmonic textures evoke train cars on rusted tracks. Confrontational and bizarre, this sound brings in almost 2 million listeners a month on Spotify.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Change the Map, Change the Moral
A global view of World War II turns a battle for freedom into a battle for empire.
HOW POLITICS POISONED THE CHURCH
THE EVANGELICAL MOVEMENT SPENT 40 YEARS AT WAR WITH SECULAR AMERICA. NOW IT'S AT WAR WITH ITSELF.
Chasing Joan Didion
I visited the writer's California homes, from Berkeley to Malibu. What was looking for?
Can Forensic Science Be Trusted?
The story of a forensic analyst in Ohio, whose findings in multiple cases have been called into question, reveals the systemic flaws in American crime labs.
Blaming Our Inner Ape
Humans love to pin retrograde gender dynamics on our primate cousins. Is that fair?
Fox News Does Late Night
Greg Gutfeld has owned the libs all the way to the top of the ratings
The Defiant Strangeness of Werner Herzog
The director brings his signature theme adventurers who share his quixotic compulsions—to his debut novel.
“THEY'RE NOT HUMAN BEINGS”
Ukraine and the words that lead to mass murder
Tracy Flick for Principal
Tom Perrotta's '90s antihero returns.
There Is No Liberal World Order
Unless democracies defend themselves the forces of autocracy will destroy them.
IT'S ABOUT TIME YOU GOT ON TIKTOK
A Lover and a Mother
At 96cm tall, Jade is proud of her p non-binary partner and is expecting baby No 2
Yes, Toxic Positivity Is a Thing
Bad vibes, begone! Here’s how to look up while staying grounded.
ZACK LUGO HAS WORKED HIS ASS OFF TO BECOME ONE OF TIKTOK'S MOST NOTABLE CREATORS, AND THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING
NETFLIX, TIKTOK BLOCK SERVICES IN RUSSIA TO AVOID CRACKDOWN
Netflix and TikTok suspended most of their services in Russia as the government cracks down on what people and media outlets can say about Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Russians Are Stuck in Putin's Web
○ A long-planned break from the Western internet has become more real than ever
War via Tiktok: Russia's New Tool for Propaganda Machine
The Russian TikTok video has it all: a cat, puppies and a pulsing background beat. It’s cute, watchable and hardly seems the stuff of state propaganda.
TRUMP'S SOCIAL MEDIA APP LAUNCHES YEAR AFTER TWITTER BAN
Former President Donald Trump’s social media app that he hopes will rival Twitter launched Monday as he seeks a new digital stage to rally his supporters and fight Big Tech limits on speech a year after he was banned from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Facebook's Fading Feed
The company’s model of social networking is no longer where the action is
HACK THE SYSTEM
TIKTOK'S RESIDENT HEARTTHROB IS MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE