Tacocat Tackle the Tough Stuff While Keeping Things Fun on 'This Mess is a Place'

Photo by: Helen Moga

Photo by: Helen Moga

“Not so long ago, I used to feel like I was too sensitive to be alive.” That’s the opening line of Tacocat’s newest album This Mess Is a Place, and honestly it’s a feeling most of us can relate to, isn’t it? The Seattle-based quartet is back at it with their fourth album to date and the first to be released on legendary Seattle indie label Sub Pop. This Mess is filled with familiar yet refined pop-punk/surf rock bops, the kind of rock music that makes you want to dance, especially when you’re at home alone in your underwear.  

This album feels a lot more pop-driven than previous releases, but Tacocat stay true to the attitude and surf-y guitar riffs from their early days. The music is still fun and the lyrics are as candid as ever, with splashes of existential dread and multi-part harmonies throughout. Lead singer Emily Nokes sings “How did we come to be so jaded?”, but the unpredictability of her melodies and the bright guitars beg to differ. Every song is as colorful and deliberately messy as the album art suggests.

acocat have always been a band that sometimes writes serious, fun songs, if that makes sense. Take the song “Rose-Colored Sky”: it’s got a driving beat, bright bouncy guitars, and a catchy melody that you could jump around to. But if you listen to the lyrics, lines like “I wonder what it feels like to not even have to try. From the top of the human pyramid, all you see if the rose-colored sky,” are actually blunt and biting criticisms of privilege and accountability. Other zingers like “Reality is round, leave it better than you found,” from “Crystal Ball” or “Just remember if you can, power is a hologram” from “Hologram,” and “I woke up today and everything was different. Didn’t have to feel bad for a change,” from “New World” all give us a taste of just how good this is at balancing bubbly and cheerful songs with apt social commentary.


But all this isn’t to say that Tacocat doesn’t write fun songs for the sake of fun anymore. Songs like “The Problem” and “Meet Me at La Palma” are pleasant reminders that they don’t take themselves too seriously. More than anything, the band writes songs that are relatable. They know better than anyone how messy, sometimes boring, and generally-shitty life can be, and they’re good at articulating it. If you’ve ever seen this band live, you’ll know what I mean when I say they are a controlled kind of chaos. Like the title This Mess Is A Place suggests, there can be order to disorder and Tacocat’s songs are a perfect embodiment of that. There’s a lot of intention to their disarray and it translates to their songs, which are sometimes clean-cut and other times sloppy, but always purposefully so. Kind of like how life sometimes is, right? Let’s hope Emily, Bree, Lelah, and Eric keep making goofy and fun, yet socially aware and relatable songs, because we all could use a lot more of this in our lives.

This Mess Is A Place is out now on Sub Pop. Even if surfy pop punk isn’t your thing, I guarantee this album will have you dancing and nodding along if you give it the chance to.

-Reina Shinohara

Delaney Motter