Imagine your super cool babysitter. The one that always allowed you stay up past your bedtime to play video games a little longer. The one that smuggled in and shared candy despite your parents’ instructions not to let you have any sugar after dinner. The one that told you about awesome music that you’d never heard of before. Now imagine four of said babysitters got together and formed a band. That, in essence, is Tacocat: Playful, silly, sugar rush hyper, more mature than they let on, but less grown up than your parents thought. The band’s latest LP NVM combines a sunny pop sensibility with a punk heart, resulting in a gleeful rock riot worth blaring past your bedtime, no matter what your age.
Tacocat plays with the casual proficiency of an overqualified house party band. Singer Emily Nokes leads the charge with peppy, candy-coated vocals and the constant cheery percussive jangle of her tambourine. Eric Kardall plays guitar with a grip it and rip it approach, proving equally adept when rocking power chords, surf rock solos, or hooky lead riffs. Lelah Maupin brings a tinge of chaos with her trashy hi-hat and blitz punk drumming, and bass player Bree McKenna, while comparatively more reserved than her rhythm section counterpart, knows just when to pick her spots for quick fills.
As is the Tacocat way, the songs on NVM span an unusually wide spectrum of topics. There are the tunes about Seattle issues like the unreliability of a certain King County Metro bus line (“F.U. #8,” the album’s most rabble-rousing track) and the inability of the city to handle a beautiful layer of snow (“Snow Day”). Tacocat’s trippy side emerges on numbers about a guy frying his brain at Burning Man (“Never Came Back”), getting lost in magic eye images (“Sterogram”), and a girl taking mind altering substances instead of going to school on her 15th birthday (the horn-infused “Psychedelic Quinceanera”). “This is Anarchy” even offers up brilliant take on the prevalence of brash, bullheaded, and mildly inauthentic anarchists; the type that “scratch a swear into a bathroom wall” but bemoan “my dad’s too pissed to post my bail.” In case it wasn’t glaringly obvious from those subject matters, humor plays a big role in Tacocat’s music. But Nokes’s earnest lyrical delivery prevents Tacocat from ever coming across as a hacky joke band. It never feels like Tacocat is trying to force comedy into the music for its own sake, but rather the songs feel funny naturally because the topics are inherently goofy.
Tacocat also champions a brand of fun feminism that’s equally accessible to first time Rookie readers, women’s studies majors, and even guys who recoil at the mention of Jezebel. “Hey Girl” sneeringly decries catcalling jerks from all walks of life (“Construction worker… dudes playing soccer… bike polo… drunk hobo… business dad… undergrad!”), while “Crimson Wave” turns the bummer of the menstruation cycle into an surf rock celebration that delightfully lacks an ounce of subtlety. There will undoubtedly be some who dismiss any notions of Tacocat being “real” feminism because the band’s humorous tone, but why should a light-hearted approach diminish the impact? The idea that a message of female empowerment can’t be taken seriously because it’s delivered with a smile is ludicrous.
It’s safe to say NVM isn’t going to have quite the same cultural impact as that other (non-chatspeak) Seattle album entitled Nevermind, but Tacocat seems to be too busy having a blast to care.