Tacocat – ‘This Mess Is A Place’

By Andy Joice

Seattle has always been a place that spits out genre-defining musicians and bands. Nirvana. Hendrix. Modest Mouse. Ray Charles. But over the last 10 years or so, there’s been a rise in catchy feminist pop-punk – and part of that reason could be Seattle natives Tacocat.

Back in 2007, Tacocat found the quickest way to make yourself noticeable in a sea of generic garage jock-rock bands was to be the complete opposite. Fun, catchy, pop-rock stuck out like a sore thumb and built them a loyal and devoted fanbase.

Fast forward to 2019 and the release of their fourth album, ‘This Mess Is A Place’. The previous 12 years may have tightened them, but it hasn’t removed any of their sensibilities. The snark and hooks are still there in abundance, and while it might be slightly lighter on witticisms (don’t worry – they’re still there), politics takes a more prominent role.

Waking up the morning after the presidential election in 2016, the pressing question for Tacocat was how to deal with a reality where evil isn’t hiding under the surface, but is now front and centre. While that might give it a dense feeling, they manage to meld the shitty realities with their trademark bright, energetic sound to create a vibrant and uplifting album.

Opening with ‘Hologram’ – the record’s second single – you’re hit by the harmonies and bubblegum melodies that stick throughout the whole album, a cornerstone sound that they’re really developed into their own. Written about manmade social structures and conformity, the track is a reminder to see the bigger picture. Vocalist Emily Nokes sings through the chorus “just close your eyes and think about the Milky Way / just remember if you can, power is a hologram”, prompting the thought that while we may be a small insignificant part of the world, self care is important.

A theme that follows into lead single ‘Grains Of Salt’, the most notable line comes near the end of the track. As Nokes sings “don’t forget to remember who the fuck you are”, the upbeat melodies and rousing drumbeats – provided by guitarist Eric Randall and drummer Lelah Maupin respectively – are held tightly by Bree McKenna’s Pixies-esque driving bass line. Positively buoyant despite the harsh nature of the lyrical content, it’s a real lesson in janglepop from seasoned pros.

‘New World’ looks at what the planet could be. No ugly buildings, no paperwork, no parking tickets. A reflection of current environmental issues, it’s a plea to create a better world, a “new shining planet”. Similar in vein is ‘Crystal Ball’, a jaunty sing-a-long track with some of the wittiest lines on the album. “Truth spread so thin it stops existing” is delivered with such snark it pops right out, only to be followed by the chorus line “what a time to be barely alive”. It’s cynical and cutting, whilst maintaining their feelgood sound.

While there might be some denser, thought-provoking tracks, there are definite moments of levity throughout. ‘Meet Me At La Palma’ relives a night at a Tiki bar – a place with “pictures of palm trees where no palm trees ever grown” while ‘Little Friend’ goes into the unexplainable love for our pets (something this writer can appreciate), the lighter moments are made to feel even sweeter.

Fun, syrupy, and peppered with their charismatic cynical humour, Tacocat have released an album that shines through the bleakness of society with light, jangly pop punk. If this is the way the world ends, it won’t be with a bang or a whimper. It’ll be with Tacocat watching on, making light of it all whilst sipping banana daiquiris.

ANDY JOICE

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