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Table Sugar - Collected Acknowledgements Music Album Reviews

The Olympia punks’ second album presents a chiming, inventive take on post-punk that's shot through with sly humor, madcap time signatures, and wild abandon.

Olympia’s Table Sugar enter a venerable lineage of art-school punks who turned their lack of technical skill into the ultimate virtue: a remarkably original perspective. The band took shape on the hallowed ground of Evergreen State College in 2014, and the current lineup—Pascal, Ella, Aidan, and Jenna—learned to play together through intuition. They gave themselves a perfectly Warholian name: a cheap, everyday product that is sneakily addictive. In one self-authored biography, Table Sugar quote 1970s soft-rock band the Archies and write, “music is hot. and when sugar is hot it turns to syrup. and we’ll stick 2 u.” After a few listens, you can’t shake Table Sugar off.

The wondrous, minimal music of Collected Acknowledgments—a 12-minute 12”, the band’s second LP but first on vinyl—recalls the collectivist energy and grooving resourcefulness of late 1970s post-punk à la Delta 5. At times, too, there are pinches of the brash spark of local predecessors like Bratmobile. But Table Sugar’s humor, madcap time signatures, and general oddity (the organ lines help) feel most akin to contemporaries like Palberta in the Northeast or the recent Indiana punk milieu of the Coneheads and CCTV. Chiming and clanging, Table Sugar are nominally post-punk in style, but the only “post-” you’ll imagine in a Table Sugar song is the hyper-charged, sour-sweet second that just passed you by. This is a thrilling band, the punk equivalent of stopping to smell flowers before yanking out a fistful for a friend.

Table Sugar’s scrappy songs move forward in inventive ways. On “Baby Yaga”—named for the mythological deformed woman—one tactic is to crescendo in volume, getting louder with each intriguing line: “Thought she was talking/She’s only singing/Isn’t that something?” The buzzing, cascading opener “Dog D-Log” is a small spectacle of optimism and joy and sunflower seeds, explosive as fireworks or streamers, like a breeze through a window. “I love limes/And I like lemons/I wanna get into someone’s heaven!” is an unusual and brilliant opening phrase, beguiling and funny and serious at once. The lead vocals have the dual composure and excitement of two exclamation points augmented by a space (yes !!). There are hardly any choruses in these punk-rock joyride tunes, and ideas jump ahead too fast to worry over mistakes. Across Collected Acknowledgments, Table Sugar sprint and scamper at the edges of their celebratory songs, passing the melody around like a volleyball. It is fantastic fun. There’s a palpable sense of discovery, curiosity, and abandon.

The personality of Collected Acknowledgments bursts from all sides. The thrumming, operatically titled “Carmen” speeds and slows like halted traffic; the slightly absurd, 25-second coda “Hot Cola” indeed has a warm effervescence. On “Susan,” less than a minute long, the whole band sounds as if it is hopping in unison while shouting out associative beat poetry. Right at the center is the wiry, rocketing “No Es Nada (Ver. 3),” which seems to describe a situation of sinister uncertainty, but they poke holes in it. “He had a funny/Cigarette!” Pascal shouts, wittily antagonizing each syllable of the smoke.

In the penultimate track, “Million Places”—a bit spacious for Table Sugar, at two minutes and 32 seconds—the band epitomizes its youthful, anarchic spirit (“Take a month to keep a 20 in your wallet/The true joy true love/The million places yeah”) as if describing the price one pays for creative freedom. It feels like a self-reflection right at the edge of the world being yours, and that sense of promise runs throughout Table Sugar’s inquisitive sound. Collected Acknowledgments is captivating in the best sense: For a dozen minutes, this tiny 12” is capable of convincing you that things are actually OK—all you need to do is look from another angle, hear the world in a different way.

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