Bad Waitress Display a New Type of Rage on 'No Taste'
Published Sep 07, 2021With their debut album, Bad Waitress mark their unofficially official arrival to a punk rock scene that's already begun to embrace them far and wide. Originally formed as the Nude Dogs, the Toronto band earned early praise from Daniel Lanois and Metric's Emily Haines after releasing their first EP in 2017. They went on to rework their lineup, change their name and release six short rippers as Party Bangers: Volume 1 the following year. They've since shared stages with the likes of Fucked Up, L7, Rise Against, Hollerado, Wolf Parade and the Bronx, making appearances at the Fest, NXNE, Pouzza Fest and other punk rock proving grounds.
Bad Waitress's music has been compared to early punks like the Damned, the Stooges and Fugazi, as well as garage rockers including the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Jay Reatard. You can also file them under "riot grrrl revival," their songs adopting both the early-'90s punk rock sneer and fearless feminism of Bikini Kill and their peers.
Now, with No Taste, they've leaned into the noisy, bottom-heavy styles of Sonic Youth, METZ, White Lung and IDLES. In marked contrast with the Party Bangers EP, these aren't what you'd call party bangers at all — more like the soundtrack to a violent brawl in a dark alleyway. Their sound here is crammed from top to bottom with Nicole Cain's chunky bass, Moon Palmar's thumping drums, Katelyn Molgard's searingly dissonant guitar work and Kali-Ann Butala's vocals that run the gamut from brusque shouts to snide yelps to pointed melodies to contemptuous murmurs.
Of course, it still feels like they're smiling while they spit in your face. With the booming track "Delusions of Grandeur," they lay out their disgust for politicians' disregard for the working class with something between wry snark and pained fury. The catchy horror punk of "Strawberry Milkshake" parodies the pop cultural obsession with sex and candy; think of Katy Perry's "California Gurls" reimagined as a grindhouse flick (or, as the band puts it, "an all-American beauty pageant with buckets of blood as the cherry on top").
Throughout No Taste, the rhythm section is consistently pulverizing, the guitars frequently squeal like air-raid sirens, and Butala's voice cuts like a blade. And while she hacks and slashes her way through these songs, the group's backing vocals sound deliberately empty-eyed. "Manners" sways to the dutifully repeated tick-tock of "Sit up straight / Good," laying a rhythmic framework for the song's satire of the wealthy and powerful. In "Strawberry Milkshake," they chant with such a disaffected tone that the sugary-themed song leaves only a bitter taste. On "Standards," the crew sings entire verses in a lilting, sarcastic mumble ("I don't speak too much / I don't cause a fuss").
More broadly, Bad Waitress's music is designed like a self-defence class — the punk-rock equivalent of holding your keys between your fingers, ready to fight back against any number of attackers and injustices. Their songs — the most unrestrained of which include the frenetic "Yeah Yeah Yeah," the dizzying "Lacerate" and the vicious "12 Years Old" — are both imposing and empowering; they're only a threat if you're the aggressor.
If the band's previous tunes were like a knife fight, this feels more like blunt force trauma. They used to land quick jabs; now they're throwing haymakers. Yet No Taste is also more dynamic and measured in its violence; songs like "Live in Reverse" and "Restless Body" show that the band can operate at slower speeds while still displaying their power. While fans might miss the sneering fury of their earlier punk, No Taste is a different kind of rage. (Royal Mountain Records)