Bands that come out of Seattle have always had a certain sound to them. For Tacocat, it is always one that is uniquely indie rock and unabashedly themselves. On This Mess Is a Place (Sub Pop), which is their fourth full-length to date, there is an obvious grunge influence—as often found in the Seattle sound—and a newfound bubblegum pop aspect that twinkles amidst the edgy guitar riffs and heavy bass lines.
The introductory track, “Hologram,” sets the record up perfectly with an eighties pop meets nineties rock influence. It’s reminiscent of The Bangles’ “Manic Monday” and “I’ll Set You Free,” due to strong lyrical setup and its harmonious, balanced vocals—both of which are found throughout the entirety of this record.
“Grains of Salt” is a melodic, personal song that would fit in impressively well on the track list of Paramore’s 2017 album, After Laughter. It still goes back to the clear eighties pop inspiration, but also holds onto the humble indie rock ground this band started on: slick, but gritty, guitars and knockout drums.
On the topic of drums, the drumming throughout this album is a big step up from that of their last album, Lost Time. It’s hard to pinpoint what is making for a stronger percussive impact on this record, but it may be the pure air-drum-ability of the tracks. The fast paced, beat-dropping placement of the drum sequences is surely something to write home about, for it separates each song from another by changing the overarching tone. This Mess Is a Place as an album plays like a good ‘ol Hershey bar: sweet and almost safe, albeit different from Tacocat’s previous works.
Each subsequent listen provides a chance to focus more on the messages being put forth through each track and less on the summertime pop sound. The record does have layers to it, making it full of depth and challenging. “Rose-Colored Sky” is upbeat, harmony-driven, with radio-ready vocals that make it a pop song for the ages, but it’s the hefty-handed electric guitars and grunge-based energy that allows the actual lyrics to make their mark. The feminism that Tacocat has always put forth is driven home here in the style of the original riot grrrls by being honest and catchy. The song pokes fun lyrically by way of a truthful realization: those who have money and are able to live both comfortable and frivolously don’t do anything politically or socially-driven to make a difference because they don’t feel as though they need to.
This Mess Is a Place, overall, is an influence driven album. One wonders what the members of Tacocat like to listen to. What observations on society do they have? What do they think guitar-driven pop music can sound like in 2019? It’s existential and it’s relevant. It’s pretty and it’s rough around the edges. It’s personal and it’s relatable, taken exactly in the direction that one would have hoped Tacocat would.