There’s a whole genre of feminist pop punk, sonically diverse but a united community sharing a fanbase and ethos. Woody Guthrie’s guitar said “this machine kills fascists” and in this scene, flourishing in the 2010s thanks to a combination of empowerment and necessity, these bands are lyrically killing outdated notions of gender and injecting guitar music with much needed relevance and bite.
On This Mess is a Place, Tacocat’s fourth album and first on Sub Pop, dreamy melodies deliver self-encouragement (“what do they even say? Do it anyway”) and reminders to take control of relationships (“I think your problem is that you like problems”). Singer Emily Nokes sounds unimpressed on The Problem as she strips someone down who’s reliably a nuisance, but the energy of the guitars, spiky and staccato, keeps everything up-tempo.
Liberation is as much the freedom to follow your heart and on the sunshine-tinged happiness of Meet Me at La Palma there is a meeting of familiar faces, unshackled by responsibilities. The dry wit of lines like “do you wanna meet me at that restaurant-slash-bar?” makes these songs sound written for specific ears as well as diary entries.
That vibe drapes This Mess is a Place with intimacy, leading to a familiarity that only grows with repeated listens. At thirty-two minutes, the album breezes by, and each of its ten tracks has at least one hook perfectly crafted to be hummed for days. On opening track Hologram it’s “just remember if you can, power is a hologram,” sung with satisfying cadences while lamenting a loss of sensitivity. “Too much to say so I don’t say anything” encapsulates a modern numbing feeling, overstimulated by a 24/7 news cycle of grief, all the while wanting to remain active in putting the world to rights.
The soft production by Erik Blood makes it an easy little listen, swaying to the beat more than moshing. Over ten years into their career, Tacocat have a comfortable handle on accessible punk tunes, able to make each track sound like it’s written by your friends. There’s a lot of power in this compact record, of unafraid lyricism and climactic choruses like on Rose-Colored Sky when Lelah Maupin batters the heck out of her drumkit. What the repeat button was made for.
This Mess Is A Place is available now, via Sub Pop Records.