Published Feb 27, 2017Bruce Springsteen famously sang that "It's hard to be a saint in the city," and anyone who's lived amid all the noise pollution, eyesores and daily headaches — and, worst of all, the people — of a major metropolis must easily identify with that sentiment. You can feel it all throughout the debut album by Deforesters, a Toronto band whose name itself suggests a sardonic embrace of an environment made of pavement, skyscrapers and whatever exists in between.
Featuring members of past and present Toronto punk bands PUP, the Roman Line and Plan 37, Deforesters worship at the altars of bands like Dillinger Four, Hot Water Music and the Lawrence Arms. Recorded with Steve Rizun (the Flatliners, Junior Battles, the Creepshow) and featuring several cuts from their two preceding EPs, Leonard is a tried and tested exercise in cranked guitars, a rowdy backbeat (courtesy of drummer Zack Mykula, who somehow managed to find enough time away from PUP's tour schedule to do this) and a crew of young men singing themselves hoarse. Deforesters file themselves in the 'unserious' category with a ukulele-led opener called "Obligatory Cutesy Intro," laughter between tracks, ridiculous song titles (one called "Clever Song Title") and no shortage of cuss words.
Leonard toils in the hustle and bustle of big-city living, and the fickle relationships, requisite cynicism and charming ugliness that come with the isolation and anonymity of urban life. It all wraps up with "Municipal Geography Lesson," a reluctant love-letter to idiosyncratic Toronto: "For all the crust punks of Kensington / For all the douchebags of King Street West / For all the crack dens in Rexdale / I wouldn't trade you / For all the projects in Regent Park / Jarvis hookers and Bay Street suits / For every asshole that pisses me off / I wouldn't trade you."
Matt Bod's raspy growl likens the band to other made-for-FEST bands like Off With Their Heads, Dear Landlord or Banner Pilot; through the smoky grit, though, his voice has a rich boldness that gives their songs more character. You can start with sing-alongs "A Song for the Reptoids" or "Is This a God Damn?" or "The Topiary Animals" if you want, but if catchy, gruff punk rock that gets right to the point is your thing, then Deforesters won't disappoint. And if you're looking for something to help you through the last few weeks of another harsh Canadian winter spent in a tiny apartment and gridlock traffic, Leonard may help. (Black Numbers)