Liner Notes by Jake Tully:
Getting fucked up regularly while maintaining some integrity is a lost art. Often times it is much less fueled by escapism than trying to inspire the next creative spring - though we do see such ambitions come to fruition. It’s much more common, for the would-be artists to wax poetic about a trip with seemingly no purpose rather than to let experience show itself through one’s latest piece.
The Valley seems to be conducive to a drug diaspora of sorts. A will-o-wisp floats about the air from town to town inciting hallucinogen gobbling, whiskey rivers and mayhem that can be calculated with a phone call and a few crisp bills. Yet despite all this, a bastion of culture remains. Yes sir, troubadours in the San Fernando Valley can still be found guitar slinging and spitting into the wind. Said Groke, “I basically just wrote the album with no intent of settling on something. I just started recording and it turned into whatever it was going to turn into. People can take away whatever the fuck they want from it.”
Enter Toxic Boy (neé Los Angelino Andy Groke) fearless minstrel of the brutality and jocularity of his domain. Having previously dabbled in funk, punk, hip-hop and a multitude of sub-genres, Groke seems to feel most familiar with the alt-rock stylings of Toxic Boy. Acoustic Tapes delivers to us Groke undiluted – a bare-bones sort of guy wearing more than just one organ on his sleeve. “I don’t want to be pigeonholed into one genre. I wanted to focus on a stripped down alternative rock, garage influence but letting each song become it’s own living idea.”
Acoustic Tapes is a smattering of Groke’s stream of consciousness conveyed in a most coherent manner. The album presents a fine juxtaposition of weary inquisition and utter convictions, with a confidence that only seems to build throughout the record. It’s the sort of record best preserved for the bold listener. Then again, even the meekest of individuals can feel appropriately suited for a spinning of Acoustic Tapes with a glass of wino or another sort of liquid encouragement.
From the opening “Let Her Sleep” ramparts of pseudo-sunniness to the treatise of survival in “Hungover Again” to the haunting call of “I Got Shot,” it becomes clear that Acoustic Tapes aren’t so much caustically quiet as they are quietly caustic. With a sound reminiscent of an unplugged Neil Young and Pearl Jam collaboration (Think Mirrorball, but easier on the ears) there are shadows and traces of a feathery West Coast timbre that remains so persistent in many alternative records today. Toxic Boy exhumes the elements of Shannon Hoon, Eddie Vedder, and Mark Everett. The Acoustic Tapes embody the oeuvre of the penultimate reign of musicians whose ghastly remnants hang about an overcast shore, the bottom of a liquor reservoir and the receiving end of old habits dying hard.
“I’ve always made it a focus to talk about things that are important to me,” Said Groke. “Independent artists are for the most parts kid sitting on the end of their beds waiting for something to happen to them. Eventually you’ve just got to make something happen. Either you do music or you don’t.”
Yet the most intriguing facet of Groke’s latest endeavor is the creation of the alter ego Toxic Boy. “I didn’t want it to be just my name. Toxic Boy creates the availability of a community of people listening that might also be feeling the same way. It’s not much a persona, but it allows me to say what I feel without being so transparent.”
An inherent level of acerbity exists throughout Acoustic Tapes; the albums presence is only muted by carefully articulated flange and a slow but steady discourse from Groke himself. Groke may not be so much his alter ego as he wants to pour his heart out on the stage – Toxic Boy is the cathartic figure allowing him to do so.
In all, Acoustic Tapes are a humbled offering from a musician facing a permutation of acceptance and self-realization. Toxic he may be, but judge Groke not on his moniker, rather his message.
released March 17, 2015
Produced by Andy Groke and Troy Ambroff
Recorded by Troy Ambroff somewhere in Los Angeles
Mixed and Mastered by Troy Ambroff at Synergy 770 (Fullerton, CA)
All songs written by Toxic Boy (Andy Groke)
all rights reserved