Tacocat use melody to move forward on This Mess is a Place

This Mess is a PlaceIf growing up sounds like alien invasions, advanced Artificial Intelligence and Tacocat, then put me down for the long haul. The Seattle band return this spring with their fourth album This Mess is a Place, which besides being open to tongue-tie interpretation in the pub, is the sound of a punk band maturing in attitude (not face - they're still super pretty).

The four-piece achieve this new dimension through layered melodies, structured verses and improved musicianship. That's not so impressive, you cry! Plenty of bands peddle just that sound but go on to create forgettable albums; what makes Tacocat different?

A lot of what makes them stand out has to do with Emily Nokes' vocal, which instantly places the band but still 'belongs' to the Washington music scene. Unsurprisingly Tacocat signed to Sub Pop to release This Mess is a Place and were closely affiliated to the riot grrrl revival when they first emerged in c. 2010. The difference between the masses of bands that participate and Tacocat - potentially why they've excelled - is that Nokes trades in anger to hit her high notes and carry a melody. A lot of their new songs rely on this gesture to make a special impact; the refrain of, "Can you not stand on my heart right now," from "Crystal Ball" will be swimming around your head for days after you first hear it.

When Tacocat lose sight of their special power, things begin to slip into pseudo-Irish American punk rock; the more mainstream examples of the genre being Green Day and Dropkick Murphys. These bands have been out of favour for some time, and This Mess is a Place doesn't benefit from the reminder. Tracks like "The Problem" sound tired and overdone, and when a band is capable of such great things as "Grains of Salt", should have been cut at the demo stage.

Elsewhere they've inevitably been compared to the melody-driven riot grrrl bands of the 90s (The Casual DotsSleater Kinney) but this writer is inclined to think that's more so because Tacocat are with one exception girls with guitars (omg). Those bands would never have produced something so fun - at times This Mess is a Place borders on 80s indie pop, with "Little Friend" a particular favourite and long overdue ode to the best of furry companions.

This Mess is a Place isn't groundbreaking, but in the confines of this sound it was never going to be. Tacocat have however successfully achieved the crème de la crème of their genre and proved their importance as musicians in 2019. Where they go from here remains to be seen.

Release: 3rd May 2019, Sub Pop Records


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