Album Review: Bad Waitress – No Taste

[Royal Mountain; 2021]

The key to landing a good punch is always the follow-through. You don’t actually aim for the face, but the space behind the face. Far too many up-and-coming rock and/or roll bands in recent memory don’t quite grasp this notion. Beneath all that telegraphed cool and grandstanding, the punches often feel pulled.

Fortunately, Toronto four-piece Bad Waitress aren’t part of this feeble majority. If the band’s debut LP No Taste has one thing going for it, it’s that it harnesses a violent, penetrating energy that tells us they’re not here to mess around. Opening track “Rabbit Hole”, with its piercing barbed-wired pounce, immediately recalls the feverish dementia all too familiar on records like Nirvana’s In Utero and Sleater-Kinney’s The Woods. Or, to name a more recent example, Moor Jewelry’s True Opera is another one of those.

Bad Waitress summon this inherent appetite for physicality and making a mess on their way out. They’re not here to achieve originality, at least not yet; “Yeah Yeah Yeah” does almost exactly sound like Yeah Yeah Yeahs at their most raw and primal covering material from Goo-era Sonic Youth. But the way these influences are reconfigured sound fresh, irreverent and exciting – as if invented anew.

No Taste is really fun when Bad Waitress fully lean into their unpolished, impulsive energy, like on “Lacerate” or “Manners”, where you can clearly hear they are pulling at the threads, intent on carving out their own sonic identity. “12 Year Old” is as restless as it is thrillingly executed, incorporating the afrobeat-indebted cadence of The Ex and a faint flirt with Broadway play-inspired orchestral splendor. It’s without question the most original sounding song on the album.

Many fringe-y punk bands thrive on guts and sonic mayhem alone, but Bad Waitress already flex their muscles abundantly from a songwriting perspective on No Taste. “Strawberry Milkshake” is an adrenaline-fuelled pop romp with equal measures of sugar and spice, summoning the same unhinged dripped mascara prom queen aesthetic adapted by Hole and – more recently – Olivia Rodrigo.

“Live In Reverse” is a fantastic, almost classical torch song that would hit its emotional mark within any type of musical stylistic: if you strip it down to just piano or create a sad disco banger out of it, it would still rip your heart straight out. It proves that Bad Waitress isn’t the umpteenth rock outfit that feels like a haphazard, hedonism-driven sum of many parts: at its core lies a restless creativity of wanting to explore both sonically and lyrically.

No Taste basically checks all the boxes of what makes punk rock still a righteous, thrilling starting point for any young artist. It’s a record that frantically claws at the walls with concisely aimed fits of desperation, anger, scathing humor and gusto. Sometimes music isn’t exciting because it reaches a certain apex or artistic transcendence, whatever the fuck that means. No Taste captures Bad Waitress voluntarily and violently skirmishing within their own untapped potential. And that’s why it fucking rips.