Wupadupa flyer

•• Sugardrum + Nun Of The Above @ The Grey Horse, Kingston, Surrey,
29 January 2005
•• Published: SoundsXP, February 2005
•• Original article: http://www.soundsxp.com/1538.shtml

Wupadupa is a diverse collective of miscellaneous bands and tonight they have arranged a get-together in the backroom of a Kingston boozer to raise some money for the Tsunami relief effort. And if music and a worthy cause still aren't enough there is also the promise of free cake to entice people into the intimate, dimly-lit den.

Only half of sextet Nun Of The Above turn up, perhaps due to the tiny, unaccommodating stage or maybe just to escape the acid-tongue of their singer for the night. The most miserably dry frontman you will ever encounter sits uncomfortably at centre-stage as his mumbled jibes are directed at the soundman and fellow bandmates but, thankfully, the music soon makes up for the perfect-haired pouter's put-downs. Many bands take a leaf out of Radiohead's book of tortured, experimental abstraction but allow their obsession mould them into mere watered-down versions of their idols, not so Nun Of The Above, the vocals taking Thom Yorke's undecipherable wailing and exaggerating it to an almost frightening extent. This may sound awful in theory and at times it is, but at others it proves to be captivatingly emotive.

Add to this the rich backing of acoustic and electric guitars and some heart-warming cello playing and you have a memorable, sweetly melancholic performance, which is strengthened further by the sort of magical instrumental tangents beloved of Badly Drawn Boy. They may just have the right combination of passion and professionalism to succeed so if you don't have any plans tonight (February 2nd) you could do worse than getting down to the Garage to see them play upstairs at full-strength…just let me know if the singer manages to raise a smile.

Sugardrum take the Wupadupa community spirit to heart, borrowing a cellist and mandolin player from two other bands to compliment the drums and guitar before reverting to a two-piece. This is a shame as the hired hands add a depth and warmth to an otherwise stripped-back set. Lyrically it's weird and wonderful, with tales of aliens and other things lurking at the bottom of the garden and motorway day-dreaming but it's all a little too earnest. The words seem to splay awkwardly over the backing creating a relatively unfocussed, loose-limbed sound. Musically though the lead singer, Nigel, manages to impress with some vibrant, folk-edged melodies accompanied by Nick the drummer's offbeat percussion played solely with brushes. This works perfectly during the quieter numbers but at other moments you wish he would get some proper drumsticks and thrash out a pattern that is as lively as the music flowing over the top.

At the end of the set Nigel sits down on the edge of the stage, eyeball to eyeball with his audience, and announces he is going to treat us to a cover. Just when you fear a rendition of 'Puff The Magic Dragon' is due he breaks into an excellent, heart-rending unplugged version of The Smiths' 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' and all of the loose lyrics and lethargic drumming that went before are forgiven. Enough to make grown men weep.

Overall, not bad for a night down the pub!

- Ian Roullier, 01/2005
Copyright © Ian Roullier 2004-2014