Archive | November 2012

soundCHECK 178 – November 29th 2012

Yoda: Jedi master, goldmine for syntactic pedantry, 2012 telecom pin-up.

If nothing else, Vodafone’s latest advertising campaign shows they have a sense of humour. Mildly amusing it is. (I can’t help thinking that marketing moguls should be falling over themselves to get North Devoner Mike Stocks’ animatronic monkeys onto the telebox. His video for ‘Dreamin’’ – YouTube it – won best music video at the Institute of Videography awards earlier this month.)

Vodafone’s (Yodafone’s?) latest yarn sees Yoda referring to a bespectacled moptop tech-geek as ‘Padawan’ (a Jedi student). Sadly, no amount of Jedi tomfoolery is going to save North Devon covers band The Padawans, who play their final gig at Buddy’s Live Lounge in Ilfracombe tomorrow night (Friday 30th November).

“All good things come to an end,” wails their Facebook epitaph ( “It is with great sadness and after much debate [that] we will no longer be playing as a band. It has been awesome and we have had the pleasure of playing some amazing venues throughout North Devon with some other truly excellent bands and musicians.”

In happier news, a musical professional of global repute is coming to Barnstaple. Ethan Johns has produced and mixed albums for the likes of The Vaccines, Ryan Adams, Laura Marling, Kings Of Leon, Tom Jones and the mighty Boxer Rebellion. Johns is now touring the country to promote his new solo album, which shimmers and sparkles with corporeal, Dylan-esque beauty.

Given the weight of Johns’ musical CV, you could be forgiven for thinking the only venue such a show would take place in Barnstaple would be The Queen’s Theatre. Wrong! The Factory? Wrong! Johns will play in Solo Music on Boutport Street. Yep! Every gig on his tour is taking place in an independent record shop.

“I’m doing this tour primarily because visiting local record stores is still one of my favourite things to do,” explains Johns. “You just don’t know what you’re going to find, whether it be an elusive album you’ve been searching for, for years, or the amazing new local band the shop assistant is playing when you walk through the door. Nothing beats it. I’m very grateful for those store owners who have struggled on.”

There will also be a Q&A session with Johns after his performance. “I’m looking forward to meeting people who have as deep a love for records as I do.” Songwriters, budding producers or simply straight up music fans, this is not one to be missed. Listen to Ethan Johns’ new single ‘Whip-Poor-Will on YouTube. The show takes place tomorrow (Friday 30th) at 5pm in Solo Music.

Finally, The Breaks Collective have cooked up another aural delicacy from their cupboard full of hip-hop, jazz and soul ingredients. Download the super-slick ‘On The Hush’ for free at

Most talented they are.

CONTACT: Got local music news? Local artist that wants some free coverage? Teleport your fact-nuggets to jharper[at] or tweet @testforpulse.

soundCHECK 177 – November 22nd 2012

There are lots of things that soundCHECK doesn’t know. Its place is not one of them.

It understands that if you are reading these pages, there is every chance you have a fully functioning brain; one with the capacity to make decisions without being tricked or cajoled or manipulated. So soundCHECK is not about to take the liberty of telling you how to spend your money. And it’s not about to spew self-righteous anti-corporate guff. Instead I’m going to try and use as little bias as possible to explain why it’s so luminously disappointing that HMV has opened a pop-up shop in Barnstaple and, in doing so, threatened the livelihood of Solo Music – one of the last independent music stores in the south west.

Before I continue, let me be clear: HMV’s wares are not the problem here. Films and games offer boil-in-the-bag emancipation when real life gets too terrifying or sad or stressful. And in music they retail a product that punctuates life’s most memorable moments with an ever poignant soundtrack. The problem here is that their mere presence could put Solo (Boutport Street, Barnstaple) out of business. For good. Gone are the days when Barnstaple (or any town, for that matter) could support a selection of high street music retailers. (Hands up if you remember Our Price, Up Front and S ‘n’ V.) The fear is that Barnstaple isn’t big enough for Solo to survive with HMV milking off profits from the local market share.

Detractors of this viewpoint might opine that HMV is only open for a few months. What damage can they do in that time? Fatal damage, that’s what. HMV’s pop-up store has been created to capitalise on the profitable Christmas period. Independent record shops like Solo rely on the bumper spending at Christmas to see them through the financial year. A year that witnesses plenty of lean sales periods. Local musician and Solo employee Scott Xander Linn summed up the panic: “Solo Music is fighting for its very survival and needs the support of all its valued customers this Christmas.”

What’s so special about HMV anyway? Sure, some of their CDs might be a couple of quid cheaper than in Solo. But if you are looking for anything that hasn’t hit the album chart, you are going to struggle. Solo is endowed with a much richer variety of popular music, spanning everything from rock and pop to country and jazz. It’s got an enviable classical section too. And on top of that, the staff know their Decca from their Domino, their Joy Division from their Happy Mondays. They’re not just there to shovel as much cash into the register as they can. Proper service like that matters in the increasingly faceless world of modern consumerism.

But the key point here is that HMV will do nothing to support the local music scene, unlike Solo who help local artists sell their music, promote their gigs and expose their material. Independent record shops have been associated with healthy underground music scenes since before music was invented. Call me old fashioned, but I know where I’d rather shop. And if supporting your local music scene doesn’t motivate you, then supporting your local economy should give you the inspiration you need to visit Solo. Just don’t be surprised if you discover a talented local artist while you’re there.

CONTACT: Got local music news? Or an opinion? Or a bone to pick? Email jharper[at] or tweet @testforpulse.