Whenever we talk about aesthetic judgment, we’re gonna have to talk about Immanuel Kant. Even here, in an article about a Seattle punk band, there’s no ignoring the big, 18th century, German elephant in the room. In his Third Critique, Critique of Judgment, Kant outlined an aesthetic framework which has gone on to become one of the most influential in Western aesthetic philosophy. Whether or not they realize it, pretty much anyone who publicly passes judgment on a work of art owes a debt to Kant–this reviewer included. After all, what’s a concert write-up if not an aesthetic judgment buried beneath layers of snark and know-all?
One of the most striking things that Kant posits about aesthetic judgment is that it must be disinterested. “Taste in the beautiful,” he says, “is alone a disinterested and free satisfaction.” According to Kant, there must be a sense of distance between the viewer and the art work in order for the necessary “free-play” of imagination and understanding to occur.
Kant seems like a smart dude, but I’ve gotta disagree with him here. There are some works of art, of music, towards which distance and disinterestedness seem impossible. The kind of art that makes you want to get up, run around in circles and call everyone you know so that they too can understand how MINDBLOWING it is. Case in point: Seattle-bred pop-punk quartet Tacocat, who, on Thursday night, lit up Chop Suey in celebration of the release of their new LP, Lost Time.
It’s impossible not to be interested in Tacocat. They like stickers and candy and glitter and mocking patriarchal bullshit. “Feminist punk” might seem like an intense descriptor, but Tacocat make it seem like such fun. They’re like the cool kids in high school who hung out with the hip english teacher and knew who The Slits were, but didn’t make you feel bad that you didn’t.
Their first LP, NVM, is full of candy-coated episodes that eviscerate tech bros, and cat callers with brutal, infectious melodic hooks and beach house guitars. In a world of punk posturing, Tacocat’s refusal to take themselves or anything else too seriously is beyond refreshing.
“Did you hear that the world is ending?” singer Emily Nokes inquires on I Love Seattle.
“Yeah, yeah, we already know.” At which point I’d imagine they leave to eat pizza and watch Ten Things I Hate About You.
When I finally made it inside Chop Suey (the line was rough) the interior of the venue looked like it was decorated for a birthday party for the world’s coolest ten-year-old. Inflatable plastic aliens and ice cream cones hung from the ceiling, The Lost Time cover cats leered from the walls, and in the corner was a photo booth where attendees could have their picture taken with more cat cut-outs and (strangely) a crawdad.
My late arrival and time spent in line meant that I missed Mommy Long Legs’ set. Let’s not talk about it. I’m still recovering from the loss.
The Ononos are a complete mess–cacophonous, grotesque, stupid–and they’re also most punk-rock thing I’ve ever seen. Experiencing them live is like dancing in a collapsing building, joyous and deeply frightening. Lead singer Nono Ono is a living Leigh Bowery sketch who glares and wails over synths and percussion that don’t know where they’re going and really don’t care. I honestly couldn’t tell you the lyrics to a single song and frankly it doesn’t matter.
By the time Tacocat took the stage, I had imbibed my two allotted PBRs and I was ready to party.
Watching them live was a delight. They’re just as fun and colorful in person as you’d expect. I felt like I was at CBGB watching The Ramones, except in some alternate universe where they all loved Sassy magazine and Joey, Dee Dee and Tommy had a really great hair colorist. Like the hopeless fanboi that I am, I spent the better part of their set quietly trying to decide who was my favorite member of the band. It’s an impossible decision but bassist Bree McKenna did kick an inflatable ice cream cone in my face, so she might be winning.
Since it was their album release party, they played through Lost Time in its entirety. NVM’s primary strength was the way in which it filtered its feminist politics through its upbeat, spunky sensibility. Lost Time still contains the indomitable humor and fun that makes Tacocat’s music such a joy but the bubblegum sheen at times gives way to something rougher and more melancholy. If NVM is a record born of punchy youthfulness, Lost Time is what happens when that record grows up a little.
Regardless, the new songs rule. Dana Katherine Scully is a glimmering ode to the X-Files iconic female lead. Plan A, Plan B is an account of a ragged hookup and the morning after. In Talk, Nokes deadpans about manic episodes. The band pays homage to middle school readers of The Saddle Club on Horse Grrls, and Men Explain Things To Me kicks mansplaining square in the balls.
Tacocat are hometown favorites, and the crowd loved the whole thing. Of course, because we were Very Serious Punk Fans, a mosh pit inevitably started, but the thing I found most striking about the crowd, about the show itself, was how much gosh darn fun it was. The band members threw piñatas into the audience and commanded us to karate chop them. I ate Skittles while dancing to a song about periods. After the show ended I watched a queer punk with a purple bowl-cut walk out into the night carrying an inflatable alien under each arm, like some twisted version of cable news looting footage.
It was the most fun night of music I’ve had in a while. After all of that–the aliens, the cats, the glitter and rainbow hair and stickers and candy–after I walked down Capitol Hill towards my bus, still humming snatches of I Hate The Weekend, how could I possibly be disinterested in Tacocat?
Dana Katharine Scully
I Love Seattle
I Hate the Weekend
You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit
Plan A, Plan B
Men Explain Things to Me
Bridge to Hawaii