Seattle is having a bit of a renaissance. Who needs grunge when there’s vibrant and colourful feminist punk? Bands like Chastity Belt, Tacocat and Childbirth (which is a combination of the two) are leading the pack, with all three bands debuting with ramshackle punk that had an endearing DIY quality, but their second albums have been huge leaps ahead. Chastity Belt expanded into stretched-out hazy jams, Childbirth went further down the comedy-punk route and Tacocat are now making minute worlds of radiant punk-pop within their (mostly) two-minute songs. There’s always the chance that making twelve two-minute songs could end up like a Wire album where all songs blur into one, but on Lost Time the songs are defined by their lyrics and are instantly memorable. Emily Nokes is exactly the kind of vocalist you’d want singing these peppy pop songs drenched in humour and social commentary. She’s half 60s girl-group singer and half-Kathleen Hanna.
The tracks that have the funniest lyrics are often the ones that are most memorable. Tacocat are in the business of wrapping genuine commentary in a joke, so on a song like ‘Dana Katherine Scully’, a pretty funny comparison to the X-Files character played by Gillian Anderson. Nokes compares herself and idolises Scully with her ‘shoulder-pads and no-nonsense attitude’. Nokes then goes on to liken the TV show’s tagline ‘The truth is out there’ to wanting to discover the world, only to be met by limits. Tacocat and Nokes have a good balance of the humour and the message and on a song like ‘Dana Katherine Scully’ they perfectly combine the two, finding original analogies in pop culture references. The instrumentation is always breezy and breathless, from tribal drumbeats courtesy of Lelah Maupin and a surf-rock guitar from Eric Randall. They play at a wonky stop-start pace on ‘I Love Seattle’, but it’s on ‘I Hate The Weekend’ where they really hit every base. It’s a perfect pop song, but there’s a Protomartyr-esque rant about how we’re all brainwashed into looking forward to the weekend in order to spend all the money that we made during the miserable week, people that are ‘homogenised and oh so bleak’ flooding into Nokes’ street and turning into money-spending zombies. It’s a unique perspective, even if it makes life seem completely hopeless.
The similarities to Kathleen Hanna are unmistakable on ‘Plan A, Plan B’ and ‘Talk’, which is a slow-burning hand-clapper (hand claps cover the album, and we aren’t complaining), where in the lyrics Nokes sings ‘Stay true to your phone’ and it’s difficult to see where Nokes is being sarcastic about people in love with talking on the phone, or is more genuine, as the line ‘I want to talk until my throat hurts’ suggests. It’s one of the more varied tracks instrumentally, exploding in the chorus into a rainbow of crash cymbals and heroic chords. ‘Plan A, Plan B’, on the other hand, is an explosion from the start. You’d think it was Hanna on vocals if the song just landed in your lap. Lost Time is much more immediate yet more complex than their last album, NVM and the injection of sugary pop into the mix makes the songs easily digestible whilst completely contrasting the sarcastic attitude of Emily Nokes. These songs could be on the radio, but it would feel more like an infiltration than a genuine attempt at chart success. That doesn’t seem to be Tacocat’s objective though, and they’re completely fine with that.
Tacocat have polished up what they’re good at for what many may come to as their first experience of Tacocat. It’s an excellent starting point and a way to explore the music surrounding the band, whether that’s side-projects or mutual friend bands such as Chastity Belt. It’s half an hour long, and that’s a perfect amount of time to consume Tacocat. They suit the 2-minute power-pop parties that they’ve written and too much overcomplicating would just detract from Nokes at the helm, singing songs about ‘Horse Grrls’ and ‘The Internet’, which is about ignoring online trolls. The influences are varied and often make the songs not sound too similar, even if they keep to a strict verse-chorus-verse structure (which doesn’t need changing, bear in mind). This is a blueprint for how to incorporate what’s so good about pop into punk music. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is just a genuinely exciting and optimistic album in the face of all of the problems that Nokes sings about.
Funnel Recommends: Dana Katherine Scully / I Hate The Weekend / Talk