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Matt Toka - Matt Toka EP (Cover Artwork)

Matt Toka

Matt Toka: Matt Toka EPMatt Toka EP (2012)
Reprise Records

Reviewer Rating: 2
User Rating:


Contributed by: JohnGentileJohnGentile
(others by this writer | submit your own)

In some ways, it's impressive at the volume and intensity of negative reaction that Matt Toka has garnered by simply existing. With the mere act of dying his hair green, donning a slightly torn t-shirt and pulling on a pair of tight fitting black jeans, Toka has caused those in the punk community to.


In some ways, it's impressive at the volume and intensity of negative reaction that Matt Toka has garnered by simply existing. With the mere act of dying his hair green, donning a slightly torn t-shirt and pulling on a pair of tight fitting black jeans, Toka has caused those in the punk community to rally against his very being, before even strumming a single note. In a way, there are parallels to Sid Vicious and his infamous, and extremely tasteless, swastika t-shirt. Vicious (or his clothier) likely chose the shirt not because of any identification with the Nazis*, but because it had the ability to shock and enrage the old guard. Toka, in picking out his clothes, which are a vague of approximation of what the stereotypical punk rocker wears, seems to sneer "I am taking a symbol that represents a philosophy of great importance to you, warping it for my own use, and there is NOTHING that you can do about it." Indeed, the mere fact that you the reader know who Matt Toka is means he's already won the battleā?¦but not the war.

Even in the post-Paris Hilton age, music acts have to have some value in their music in order to be taken seriously at all. Toka's flaunting of his cartoon approximation of punk gets attention, but that's just the first step. He needs to deliver music of some distinction, be it distinctively great or distinctively awful, but yet, delivers nothing more than bland rockish pop. From just the speakers alone, without visuals, Brokencyde sounds like a cat being mashed through a garbage compactor. Madball sounds like two guys being weird in the gym together even without their scowls and basketball jerseys. But on his self-titled debut, Toka just sounds like music played at the supermarket to cover up the sound of shopping carts clacking and old ladies coughing. It's music designed to fill space.**

The music comes across as a very slick, pop record. Guitars are layered on top of guitars on top of guitars until there aren't so much notes as beats. Then, multitudes of background vocals and blippity-bleeps are put in behind those, giving the whole album a very cluttered feel. It's almost as if the production is there to distract the listener from actually hearing anything else but volume itself and volume alone.

Even on the two acoustic tracks, it sounds as though his voice has been Auto-Tuned so instead of getting genuine feeling, one gets snotty vocals that have no depth of underlying sentiment. In the end, the album is so slick and so retro-computer worked that without the lyrics, it would sound like any other song played at the hair salon to fill noise.

In a way its a shame that too many cooks have spoiled the soup. Despite the slickness of sound, here and there, Toka shows surprising lyrical cleverness. "666" is somewhat self aware of the inherent cheesiness of Satan worshiping in the 2010s. Toka exclaims "Let's get wasted until 6:66 in the morning / Let's get naked until 6:66 in the morning / Gonna party with the Devil / Get high on heavy metal!"

Are those lyrics silly? Sure, but, from an angel, they are actually kind of clever in their self aware ridiculousness. Some of the greatest punk is based around silly lyrics. What makes sillier lyrics in punk some of the most clever is the delivery. You need not look far at the pantheon of punk legends to find heroes that have delivered funny/cheesy lyrics with a self aware delivery that simultaneously has a vicious edge underneath. Unfortunately, where Toka falters is that instead of delivering such lines with a hint of true menace, he delivers them in the same way Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 tries to seduce women in "3am." The lyrics might have multiple levels, but they are knocked down by American Idol crooning.

The delivery again hampers Toka's fairly clever concept on "Courtney." Dedicated to Courtney Love, the song seems to be Toka's love letter to the wife of Kurt Cobain, which ends with Toka himself hoping that he meets the same end as Cobain. Such a dedication to gruesome fatalism is pretty clever, particularly here, where Toka creates the icon for his death prayer out of an actual living person. The lyrics suggest an instability as well as possibly a comment on why some artists are deified directly following a traffic event while others struggle their whole career. But again, the song is delivered in an overproduced, by the numbers approach, which instead of adding to the songs grim premise, removes its underlying danger with synth-strings and an Axel Rose-ish squeal.

And then, there is the bad part. Namely, "I Get Money" is a symptom of everything that is wrong with tween-punk. Built around a booming, almost dubstep bass, Toka raps about how he wishes he was rich and describes what he would do with his money. Unfortunately, while Toka's audience is likely those in its most formative years, Toka describes that if he had money he'd pay lesbians to pillow fight in front of him, fill the Grand Canyon with diamonds and banally "rule the world." Out of all the clever things that he could have conjured with unlimited funds, Toka chooses to waste the time of his short EP on the objectification of lesbians. It's not dangerous. It's not edgy. it's not even insulting. It's just a bore.

Perhaps the backlash against Toka has been a bit too strong. Some of his lyrics do suggest that if anything, he has a firm understanding of word play. And, as the evidence clearly shows, he knows how to get people riled up. Maybe if he looses the $500 per hour producers, and rips out some hooks that aren't targeted to grab onto the latest (or even slightly past date) musical trends, then he'll be able to connect the lyrics to the outrage and create something that will still be able piss us tru punx off, but will also have a reason to exist beyond filling empty air.

*Perhaps my English friends will correct me, but it seems to me that the message Sid Vicious was sending out with his swastika t-shirt is perceived differently in the U.K. than in the U.S.A. It seems to me that, in the U.SA., the swastika represents the concept of racism and antisemitism. Yet in the U.K., at least in the '70s, while the swastika did represent the American notion, it also, and perhaps more directly, represented the concept of "This is the army that bombed your family and probably killed people you love." I would guess a good analogy today would have Sid Vicious wearing an Al-Quaida symbol in lieu of a swastika.

**This record came out on Reprise Records. Frank Sinatra was the founder of Reprise Records. In the comments below, I encourage you describe a scenario in which Sinatra comes face to face with Toka. I encourage you to not take the most obvious description as there is a world of possibility out there.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
evildeadalive (June 14, 2012)

this album is not worth that many words

BassetHound (June 14, 2012)

You mean like if he wore a CIA shirt, cause Al-Quaida has never made an attack on our homeland.

EchosMyron (June 13, 2012)

I heard a lot of BUZZ about this kid, so I think I`m going to go check out some of his MEDIA!

jacknife737 (June 13, 2012)

This dude was totally created in some lab, in the basement of warner brothers: not a shred of honesty or orignality to be found.

fuckyes (June 12, 2012)

I feel badly for Matt Toka. If it hadn't been for Warner Bros. dragging him into the spotlight (which he doesn't have the talent to deserve) we wouldn't be forced to know about him, and then we wouldn't bash him. He's not prepared for it, and he can't defend himself. If the song "Courtney" had been written by Andrew Jackson Jihad then we would know that it was meant ironically- we don't have that benefit with Mr. Toka. He may actually mean the lyrics he sings- lyrics that otherwise would be hilarious.

Instead of the conversation he would have with Frank Sinatra, I'd like to hear the conversation he'd have with Jeff from Bomb! The Music Industry.

danperrone (June 12, 2012)

tl;dr

theproblemwithfire (June 12, 2012)

Here's Matt Toka

mattramone (June 12, 2012)

Shit smeared on the walls in the hall of decency.

lmchc (June 12, 2012)

i think frank would want to know if this ep would help coat his nostrils white

jackozord (June 12, 2012)

After giving the previews a listen via iTunes, I just can't believe how perfect this guy is for Warped Tour. Whoever is responsible for his image (would that be marketing?) has nailed almost every stereotype of every band that gets big on the summer fest. Kids are going to go NUTS for him next week, and he'll only get bigger. Sigh.

loveshackbaby (June 12, 2012)

Not a fan of the guy, but I agree that if you treat the rest of the songs as somewhat ironic, its only fair to assume Get Money is also tongue in cheek

johngentile (June 12, 2012)

Actually, A . The "skunk rock" line pushes it over the edge.

johngentile (June 12, 2012)

Random1984- Well done. A-.

Josiah (June 12, 2012)

Why?

coolhand (June 12, 2012)

My bashing on Toka comes from his completely sub-standard music, not his appearance.

Random1984 (June 12, 2012)

Matt Toka: Hey Mr. Sinatra, nice to meet you. (reaching out for a hand shake)
Frank Sinatra: Don't touch me you green haired freak. How's the record sound?
Toka: I'm very proud of it. Very punk rock.
Sinatra: I never cared for skunk rock myself, but as long as it sells...
Toka: I think we'll have a hit. I have the punk look with MTV appeal.

...3 months later...

Sinatra: YOU SOLD 12 RECORDS!?!?!? I WISH I COULD GIVE YOU CANCER LIKE YOU GAVE TO MY LABEL!!! EVEN PEOPLE THAT STOLE YOUR RECORD RETURNED IT!!!
Toka: I'm sorry, I thought my green hair would get me cred, and that my God-awful songs would get radio play.
Sinatra: Who are you again, and why am I talking to you? ...and why does Punk News keep giving you so much attention?

bigmfjose (June 12, 2012)

Fuck the haters! Matt Toka is the shit. It's okay for blink to joke around musically but he cant. He is in on the joke... he created it so jokes on you. Ha! He puts on a killer show and Ep is great nuff said.

MN_DrNick (June 12, 2012)

No. Two stars is way too nice for this tripe. It's total garbage.

hayman (June 12, 2012)

Punknews rates Matt Toka higher than Pennywise.

Deilon (June 12, 2012)

Too many stars.

damnitsderek (June 12, 2012)

I'm confused. You're willing to offer up credit to Toka in (possibly) mocking the idea of satanism with his silly (awful?) lyrics, but not willing to consider the fact that he's being ironic in "Get Money" and mocking people whose lives revolve around how much wealth they can accrue? I'm not at ALL saying it is well-done irony if that's the case, but I feel like it would only be fair to consider the possibility of such if you're going to quickly credit him for those previously mentioned lyrics.

I'm not a Matt Toka apologist or anything, but I don't see it. He's either mocking something/someone in both songs or just an all-around idiot. I'm going to go with the latter.

renaldo69 (June 12, 2012)

his hair. it's green. damn. he's like PINK...but she's better...and he's green

peejfancher (June 12, 2012)

I'm sorry but this is just some god awful crap.

ozmanx (June 12, 2012)

Tatanka

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