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Pap Smear as Punch Line 

by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & B & lt;/span & ree McKenna and Emily Nokes' mutual friend Leila has never had a urinary tract infection. This strikes the pair as strange. "I used to get them all the time," McKenna says. Nokes assents, "If you have a vagina, you get used to it." It's such a common ailment, in fact, that their band, TacocaT, wrote a song about it. "Bath water, sex, contraception. I think I got a urinary tract infection," comes the opening salvo of "UTI." The minute-and-a-half song is unendingly crude. It's also pretty hilarious.

"We try to write what we know," says Bree. In a whirlwind 25 minutes on their debut album, Shame Spiral, what they know includes songs about the physical and mental violations inherent in the pap smear process, the fear of toxic shock syndrome, the hideous belly flab that overhangs too-tight jeans, the cliquishness of hipsterdom, the tragedy of Kevin Costner's Waterworld and the semi-annual delight that are marshmallow Peeps.

If socially-aware punk is all about the message -- and it is, since it sure ain't about the musicianship -- then TacocaT is belting out one hell of a communiqu & eacute;. The Clash was all about undermining class. Bikini Kill was all about destroying gender roles. Even contemporary feminists like Tracy the Plastics, who use irony and humor to dig at the stultifying forces of superficiality and consumerism, bang the same gong over and over.

The variety of subjects covered on the band's LP Shame Spiral, along with the album's relentlessly upbeat tempos, strikes a unique chord in the annals of punk. This is a band whose members are comfortable with their bodies. They like sex. They accept the consequences of sexual activity. Yet they still have room in their worldview for a stupid song about Easter/Christmas candy.

It seems strange that such a crass, silly party band would represent a step forward for gender identity and sexual politics. Western Washington in the '90s was a hotbed for the riot grrl movement, a fusion of punk and third-wave feminist ideology that was relentlessly critical of the extant establishments, the classic patriarchy but also an aging feminist pedagogy that didn't represent this new generation of women.

"We grew up listening to Bikini Kill," says McKenna, referencing the seminal band or riot grrls. "A sense of humor seems like a progression." Nokes agrees, "They paved the way. We now get to be silly about it."

TacocaT with Shantasina and Forever at Caterina Winery on Thursday, July 3, at 8 pm. $5. Call 328-5069.
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