The Groke is the solo project of Alexander Sokolow, who regular readers will know as Captain of Tugboat Captain fame.
An entirely solo project, The Groke is a lo-fi, home recorded project, Alexander playing every instrument, even the ones he didn’t know how to play when he started. The sound is a classic indie-pop record, with nods to the likes of The Magnetic Fields, Soccer Mommy & Sparkle Horse.
Although originally from Maidstone in Kent, The Groke is now based out of Battersea in South West London. Located in the London Borough of Wandsworth, Battersea originally grew up around a church located on an island at the mouth of Falconbrook, a river that flowed from Tooting Bec into the Thames, before later being swallowed up by the growth of London in the industrial revolution. Battersea’s most famous, and brilliantly contrasting, landmarks are the iconic Battersea Power Station and the wonderful Battersea Dogs And Cats Home. Famous residents of the area include Adele, Graham Greene and Bob Geldof, although they are all perhaps trumped by the fact Bob Marley used to play football in the area.
The Groke’s debut album, Dedicated 2 U, came out in January on Bristol based label, Uncollective Records.
Recorded in just two weeks, Dedicated 2 U is, on the surface, a fairly straight-forward concept album: a seventeen-track album of love songs. Digging deeper though, as with the obvious influence of the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs, you realise in these, “love”, songs you’re really exploring a huge amount of different, very human, emotions. Indeed listening to Dedicated 2 U as a whole, you realise it’s arguably an album more about obsession and lust than it is love. This is a young man obsessed with the subject he’s singing about, even perhaps long after she has moved on with her life. The songs taken individually might be beautiful tributes anyone would want dedicated to them, when there’s seventeen of them though, you can sort of see how it might be a bit much.
Musically, as you’d perhaps expect for an album conceived and recorded so quickly, it’s a varied and versatile set. From the swaggering power-pop of the title track to the scratchy indie-pop of Record Time and the lovely acoustic aside that is The Moomins, these feel like brief snapshots, musical ideas in their exciting, experimental emergence. It’s a record that doesn’t sound like it should hang together, however courtesy of the lyrical continuity, the seemingly disparate musical ideas come together into something cohesive and rather wonderful.
Although Dedicate 2 U might be a musically intriguing collection, it’s arguably lyrically that it shines the brightest. It’s a record of heartbroken pronouncements, from the raw honesty of Circumstance/Attraction, “I just can’t move on, knowing that you are the one, I know that sounds insane…I just want you back” or the quietly comical musing of Sorry Not Sorry, “you were wearing glasses that I thought were nice, tried to exchange glances but I never could quite catch your eye.” Sure, there’s an intensity to a man who wants to whisk you off to a new life in Uruguay, and is even himself questioning whether you actually want an entire album of love songs about you put on the internet, however you certainly can’t fault his, beyond the call of duty, dedication to his muse.
Perhaps fittingly, the album reaches it’s natural, beautiful conclusion on the closing track, and. 3am. Set to a backing of just a gently waltzing, casio-keyboard, and Alex’s softest vocal, it’s pure honesty, as he sings, “I hope that when you hear my music, you can tell how much I care, if you ever want to have me, know that I’ll always be there, all the instruments I took up, just so I could play the parts, to a unique set of love songs dedicated to your heart, so it’s clear I hope you’re happy, there’s not a thing that I would change, in spite of everything you’re perfect, more special than I can explain.” Sure the story behind the record sounds a little bit like the plot to a rom-com, but like the best of that genre, when it’s this honest and true, it’s quietly charming.
At time’s it’s uncomfortably honest, the raw emotions on show are so honest, so painful, so all encompassing that you feel engulfed by them. You can imagine someone going through a painful break-up, locking themselves in a dark room and listening to it on repeat, and we can’t guarantee that’s healthy, although we can’t guarantee it’s not either.
Dedicated 2 U is out now via Uncollective Records. Click HERE for more information on The Groke.