Archive | October 2011

soundCHECK 122 – October 27th 2011

Hallowe’en. Halloween. All Hallow’s Eve. We can’t even find consensus on what it’s called, let alone what it means. The trick-or-treating, mask-wearing, pumpkin-carving celebrations of 31st October are a mystery to me. Seriously. I don’t mind them. I just don’t get what the hell they’re for. And neither does anyone else, apparently.

Some think it derives from an annual feast for the Roman goddess of fruits and seeds. Seems unlikely. Others believe it has its origins in a Roman celebration called Parentalia, a nine day festival to honour dead ancestors. Really? But perhaps the most common conception is that Hallowe’en is the spawn of a Celtic festival. Back in the day, them Celts believed that 31st October marked the moment when the division between the real world and the supernatural world was at its thinnest, allowing ghosts and spirits to pass freely from their world into ours. (That would perhaps go some way to explaining why we collectively aspire to play a tiny part in a manufactured horror show each year and why nobody bats an eyelid when such lily-white retailers as Clinton Cards and WHSmiths cram their shop shelves with masks designed to scare old people into giving sweets to children.) There exists a slew of other theories.

But who cares what Hallowe’en means, right? If there’s an excuse for a bit of a knees-up you can rest assured the general populace will grab it with both hands. Or carve out its insides, make a face on its outside and drop a lit candle into it. Or throw eggs at its new double-glazing if it refuses to satisfy a door-to-door prowl for heart-flipping quantities of sugar.

If you want to indulge in Hallowe’en shenanigans but would rather rummage around a fun-bag containing more alternative treats, try heading for the Wrey Arms this weekend. The ever-industrious Black Hole Promotions are holding a Hallowe’en party. There’ll be fancy dress, with prizes for the best, and some bands too. The Dead Betas will be spilling their brazen boisterousness and synthesized disco-noir all over the stage, with support from London’s White Powder Gold, who mix urban beats and street-corner angst with indie guitars. Do listens at

If you’re in any way tempted, you should go. It might be the last time you get to see The Dead Betas for a little while. You can get an idea of what you’re letting yourself in for at The night is free entry. It starts at 8.30pm on 29th October.

Not strictly Hallowe’en then, but no doubt the night that most (otherwise sane) folk will be festooning themselves in ghoulish furbelows and frightening attire before taking to the streets. Much like any other Saturday night in Barnstaple, but with an excuse. In fact, if you really want a run-in with the supernatural, just stroll into Rominos or Barum Takeaway at 3am on a Sunday morning. It’s like observing some ungodly feeding ritual from the occult. And you don’t have to wear a mask.

Happy Hallowe’en!

soundCHECK 121 – October 20th 2011

What is it with former musical legends embarrassing themselves in television adverts?

Let’s be clear from the off. I don’t have a problem with the matrimony of music and advertising. It can be a mutually beneficial relationship. But when Iggy Pop is screaming through the tele at innocent families from his drug-gnarled face about car insurance, before snuggling down in bed with a blood-curdlingly vexatious puppet of himself, then a line must be drawn. I swear if Swift Cover start giving away complimentary models of that sickening little troll then that’s pretty much the end for humanity.

Regardless of whether it’s right or wrong for a former heroin addict to be selling car insurance, what can we say about John Lydon of The Sex Pistols? This onetime punk pin-up and fiery bastion of social anarchy now spends his days as the gentile face of Country Life butter. Give it hell, Johnny! That’s anarchy that is, golden churned anarchy! Given that the campaign is worth £5 million, I’m presuming Lydon earned enough not to care about his values melting away quicker than a fresh knob of butter on a hot crumpet.

But while Lydon is happy to swap anarchy for agony as he scrabbles around on his knees trying to find the best angle from which to suckle corporate teat, the majority of the former musical greats remain unsullied by shaming television campaigns. The Clash are one such band. As a result their dignity remains intact. Which is good news for Charlie Don’t Surf, a Clash covers band from North Devon.

They take to The Old Bus Station in Barnstaple next Friday (28th October) for a mammoth two hour set. So if you fancy getting your skank on and rocking the casbah to classics like ‘London Calling’, ‘White Riot’ and ‘I Fought The Law’, get down there. Matt The Hat is on record duty for the evening. Doors are at 7.30pm. Entry is £3.50 – although, in a marketing ploy that will go right over some people’s heads, you can get in for just £3 if you’re wearing a hat. Kaboom!

In other news, new music abounds. North Cornwall’s Black Galleon have self-released a folkified album that you can hear at And who remembers a local band called Moving Targets? They were a staple of the local scene a couple of years ago before academia came a’knockin’ and they scarpered for university. Well, their former frontman Simon Lockyer has announced plans for a solo EP, which is to be released next year.

You can preview one of the tracks to come out of his initial writing sessions at It’s all pretty innocuous: gentle acoustic guitar, plodding rhythms and soft vocals that aim at emotive but fall just the wrong side of tepid. It could do with being roughed up a bit, but no doubt that will come as Lockyer settles into the solo role. In fact, going against the grain and ruffling a few feathers should be actively encouraged. You just have to be careful that it doesn’t lead to basting your soul in butter before selling it to The Man.