Despite turning heads and raising eyebrows over the last four years with their campy glam-rock stage show, Toronto’s Tomboyfriend has only just released their first studio album, Don’t Go to School. Band leader Ryan Kamstra and his large troupe of artists-turned-musicians have finally sat down and put together an hour of colorful storytelling—unfortunately set to a pretty forgettable musical background.
Kamstra’s lyrics are the saving grace of the album, shifting between clever, tongue-in-cheek social commentary to beautifully stark depictions of the grittier moments of life. “Woke up spooned but alone / In bed with ‘whatever,’” he sings in “The End of Poverty.” The generally whimsical attitude of the album is conveyed by his theatrical delivery, but the backup vocals provided by Marlena Zuber help keep Kamstra from sounding tired.
Musically, however, there is little to hold your attention. Dull guitar riffs and a lack of vocal melody leave your mind to wander elsewhere, and the lyrics deserve better. There were a few successes though. The band proved capable of writing the occasional hook on “Hotel Supermart” and “Almost Always,” while the steady kick drum and rising piano juice up “Goldfinch Gluespoo,” an eight minute epic about a rent boy struggling with his sexuality. Tracks like the glitched-out electro experiment “Big in Afghanistan” miss the mark and are unwelcome digressions from the overall sound of the album.
Perhaps there was a reason it took them so long to put their songs down on record. The tracks beg for your participation and their merits just don’t seem to be showcased well on an album, something I am sure their live show does far better.