Tacocat - This Mess Is A Place - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Tacocat - This Mess Is A Place

by Jim Cunnar Rating:4 Release Date:2019-05-03
Tacocat - This Mess Is A Place
Tacocat - This Mess Is A Place

Lou Reed was once quoted as saying “One chord is fine. Two chords is pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz”.  This always cracked me up, probably because it’s true.  The majority of pop music is similar, which means that if you write songs, it takes some magic behind the scenes to make the music stand out from the background.

This Mess Is A Place, the fourth release from Seattle’s Tacocat but first on Seattle’s venerable SubPop, is an unfortunate example of decent songs that need some production magic. It is a collection of ten 3-minute songs which run together like an undercooked casserole.  The songs aren’t terrible, they are just bland and boring.  Compared to their previous release Lost Time, which had a certain edge (“I Hate The Weekend” is an example), this album fails to progress out of its generic pop-punk roots.

Opener “Hologram” starts TMIAP promisingly, with a Joan Jett riff and lyrics like “Just remember if you can, power is a hologram”.  Other highlights are “Little Friend”, an ode to our pets, wrapping up side A with some decent fuzzy guitar and driving drum beats.  “Meet Me At La Palma” is a breezy tune in which vocalist Emily Nokes nicely compliments guitarist Eric Randall’s jangles. Simplistic and light, the lyric “Pictures of palm trees, where no palm trees ever go” is perfectly matched to the music.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album struggles. “Grain of Salt” gets dangerously close to sounding like Wilson Phillips. “Don’t forget to remember who the fuck you are” can’t be taken seriously when it’s sung over generic bubblegum jangles and beats.  An F-bomb does not make you punk. In regards to the rest of the songs, they all sound frighteningly similar. The harmonies of Nokes and bassist Bree McKenna ring well but are exactly the same from song to song.  Randall’s work shows very little creativity, and the foundational beats of McKenna and drummer Lelah Maupin have shown little growth from their first three releases.

Female-led bands like Swearin, Potty Mouth or Hop Along are Tacocat’s contemporaries. The difference is that the latest releases by these bands have a complexity to their songwriting and production which make those listens decidedly more enjoyable.

Last week I had this album playing while running errands with my sixteen year old hipster daughter. Six songs in she said, “Dad, these songs all sound the same”.  I smiled, thinking she may have a future as a rock critic, and agreed completely.  When a teenager at first listen can comment on the homogenized sound of an album, that’s a serious problem. It makes This Mess Is A Place an album which teeters on the dangerous edge of irrelevance. 

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