3OH!3's “LONELY MACHINES (Feat. 100 gecs)” Makes Middle School Cool

The year is 2008, and life is good. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock debuts on Wii. Warped is the talk of the middle school blacktop. The Billboard charts are saturated with emo, rap, emo rap, and R&B. The term ‘metrosexual’ enters the collective consciousness. In this, the fateful year of ‘08, I discover the bliss of late-aught dance and crunkcore through shitty, fan-made YouTube lyric videos rife with misspellings and emoticons.

Lonely machines by 30h!3 album cover

Courtesy of Photo Finish Records

I’m just shy of 10 years old when two college kids from Boulder, Colorado, emerge with a single that assails international charts and my puny, undeveloped brain. The band: 3OH!3. The song: "DONTTRUSTME."

Whether you loved 3OH!3 or hated them, one thing was for sure: they had your attention. Few mainstream artists at the time could match 3OH!3’s energy. This was the kind of raunchy music you listened to in secret, then deleted from the family computer’s internet history. It was trashy, rebellious, and impossibly catchy. Anyone with an ounce of pride in their music taste was loath to admit they vibed with the awkward frat bros from Boulder, but, let's be honest, we all absolutely vibed. Simply put, no one knew how to respond to these two goofballs telling us to “Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips.” Their unabashedly low-brow, colloquial lyrics and tacky stylings had everyone asking “Are these guys for real?”

It was the same response 100 gecs received in 2019 when they unleashed 1000 gecs upon an audience that was not prepared. So it only makes sense that Dylan Brady and Laura Les — the latter of which has cited 3OH!3 as an influence — have teamed up with the equally improbable duo of Sean Foreman and Nathaniel Motte on “LONELY MACHINES.”

The single, which dropped on November 15, is 3OH!3’s first release in five years, and it seems a legion of grown-up middle schoolers are welcoming them back to Music with open arms. Or, at least I am. And I am happy to report that 3OH!3 is still dropping sick burns on your beef-having boyfriend.

“LONELY MACHINES” is significantly scaled back, thematically — no mention of double d’s or touching on anyone’s [beep] here. Just Foreman and Motte’s signature vocal croon swimming in a gecc-y sea of fuzzed out synths and echoing bass. As with most things they touch, Brady and Les polished the rough edges just enough so that it sounds clean while maintaining the raw energy 3OH!3 is known for. Don’t get me wrong — 3OH!3’s early stuff sounded good, but it wasn’t exactly heralded for its stunning production value. With 100 gecs by their side, though, 3OH!3’s upcoming album just might have a shot.

I can’t make sense of most of the lyrics on “LONELY MACHINES,” but that’s okay; I don’t need to. All I need is catgirl Laura recounting the story of some guy in her DM's asking to be pegged.

Besides Les’ glitchy verse, the most notable part of “LONELY MACHINES” is probably the music video, which premiered at 3:03 p.m. In it, we see Foreman and Motte get jostled by Les and Brady while trapped inside a dollhouse. Foreman and Motte land themselves in the hospital, and a spaceman, there to cheer them up with balloons, hits the whip. The four then play with some magic rocks, start a cult, and join hands with the 3OH!3 hand sign around their lonely machine.

Of “LONELY MACHINES,” Sean Foreman of 3OH!3 said, “The creative energy and motivation that we had for our first album felt recaptured. It just feels good again; unforced. And I believe the new music is a representation of that freedom.”

It seems Foreman and Motte aren’t the only ones who yearn for the cheesiest of aughts pop. The collaboration between 3OH!3 and 100 gecs is one more tally on the list of cringe culture comebacks in hyperpop. That list includes “F the World” by Dorian Electra and Rebecca Black, Village People’s feature on “My Agenda,” and the pro-Skrillex stance of artists like Fraxiom (who used to fantasize about being or kissing Skrillex) and Alice Longyu Gao, who almost named her upcoming album Welcome to Skrillex Land.

3OH!3 was always something of a novelty. Even after all these years, that hasn’t changed. But to try to define them would be pointless and a disservice--the nonsequiturs and unrestrained energy is all part of the fun.

3OH!3 occupied a strange corner of music that the less secure of us only listened to “ironically,” but probably bumped more often than the “real music” we supposedly liked more. Especially nowadays, reminiscing about the music that made us feel good in better times can be a source of comfort and safety. We may even reconnect with our past selves, remember what it was like to be in a different body and headspace.

At the tail-end of 2020, I find myself gravitating towards the saturation of human emotion that is reality television and aughts pop music; it is truly the greatest source of solace. I watch the bad music of today join hands with the bad music of 2008 via a 3OH!3 hand sign, and, in this moment, life makes a strange amount of sense. Welcome back into my heart, 3OH!3. You have been sorely missed.

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