Tacocat’s New Album Riffs on “The X-Files,” Horse Girls, and Mansplaining

Tacocat, from left to right, is Eric Randall, Emily Nokes, Bree McKenna, Lelah Maupin.

The new album from Seattle pop-punk band Tacocat opens with an ode to The X-Files agent Dana Scully: “‘Cause she’s the only one thinking it through / She’s got the shoulder pads, no-nonsense attitude / The truth is out there, but so are lies / To see the world through Dana Katherine Scully’s eyes.”

These lyrics perfectly capture the snarky wit and feel-good vibe of the new album, Lost Time, which comes out today from Hardly Art records. Its 12 songs combine feminist pop culture feels with acid-sharp wordplay and a fuck-the-haters surf-rock sound. Lost Time would be the perfect playlist for a way-too-loud all-ages show staged in the basement of a beloved old punk house that’s about to be torn down to make way for a condo.

Since the release of 2014 album NVM, Tacocat has built up a solid following nationwide, with its four members (Emily Nokes, Bree McKenna, Lelah Maupin, and Eric Randall) pulling off energetic shows. They strike a chord particularly in the Pacific Northwest, where they’re part of a blossoming feminist music scene along with bands like Chastity Belt, Childbirth, Wimps, and Mommy Long Legs (which share several members between them). These bands embrace the lo-fi aesthetic and political leanings of previous generations of performers, but they differ in a key way: they are freakin’ funny. They’re not just funny people or humorous in an ironic sort of way. Many of these bands’ lyrics are laugh-out-loud hilarious and their music videos are tongue-in-cheek satire perfectly suited for an audience raised on YouTube (here’s a playlist to get you started: “Crimson Wave,” “Cool Slut,” “Life RIPS”). While all these performers take their music seriously, Seattle’s current crop of feminist bands should be lauded for steering the often self-righteous punk scene into a place where it’s okay to laugh at your own puns, wear lots of glitter, and crack sarcastic jokes about Tinder.   

Lost Time is a little moodier than NVM. Or as Nokes described it when I spoke to her this week, “If our last album was hot pink, this one is dark purple with glitter in it. We can always come up with really bright, sunny pop songs. But this one has a bit more moodiness. We were feeling like, ‘You know what, the world isn’t that sunny right now.’”

Many songs on Lost Time poke fun in a way that resonates all too deeply. The track “Men Explain Things to Me” is a riff on mansplaining, with its title inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s treatise on the topic. “I already know where this is gonna go / Tell me to calm down,” sings Nokes, before launching into the song’s refrain: “Take up the whole sidewalk / Take up the whole sidewalk / Take up the whole sidewalk, again.” Tacocat’s lyrics are the kinds that sink into your brain, stored to be muttered (or shouted) in frustrated moments. Like “I Hate the Weekend,” an anthem for service industry workers who have to endure the influx of bros on the weekend. Like in San Francisco, the tech industry is driving rapid gentrification in Seattle, where a spate of high-end buildings have replaced beloved dive bars, cheap apartments, and practice spaces. “It was just this gross thing of, ‘Oh, there’s another condo, another condo,’” says Nokes. The punchy two-minute track captures the anger over that changing culture with a pounding drum track backing up the lyrics, “At the end of every week / they spill into our streets / homogenized and oh-so-bleak.”

But the album isn’t all dark times. The track “Horse Girls,” meanwhile, is an irrepressibly catchy song all about, you guessed it, girls who are obsessed with horses. The lyrics go: “They know the different breeds / Of all their favorite steeds / Breyers on their desks / Long hair and long necks.” This song might not make sense to everyone, but that doesn’t matter. For the horse girls out there, it will land with the surprised joy of complete recognition.

When I talked with Nokes this week, she had just returned from a shopping trip to purchase a bunch of giant flamingo piñatas and bags full of discount Easter candy—essential decor for their two album release shows in Seattle this weekend. “Really excited to shower everyone in candy,” said Nokes. A piñata party is a pretty good metaphor for what Lost Time feels like, too—Tacocat venting their frustration and anger by busting something apart with a few delightful, sugary whacks.  

by Sarah Mirk
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Sarah Mirk is the former host of Bitch Media’s podcast Popaganda. She’s interested in gender, history, comics, and talking to strangers. You can follow her on Twitter

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