Archive | November 2013

soundCHECK 227 – November 28th 2013

Yes, December is upon us. No, it’s not Christmas.

Round about this time each year I am all agog at the fortitude and resilience of some people’s festive spirit. Why can’t I be that happy? Why are my excitement levels locked in the basement? I don’t normally sashay into my yuletide persona until a day or two before Christmas Eve. And even that’s dependent on having the Christmas shopping done, which it almost always isn’t. Not so for the perennially hardy revellers who already have the deccies up, the Christmas dinner planned, the gifts purchased, the carols on repeat, the cards written and the mistletoe hung. Talk to them and I guarantee you will walk away from the conversation feeling a little warmer about being a human. But the hastiness of it all is astonishing. These people whip themselves almost torturously into wide-eyed fits of festive fervour while normal people, you know, get on with their lives.

Look at The Dead Betas. You don’t catch them worrying about whether the angel on top of the tree looks wonky. They’d rather be in London filling people’s lugholes with Heroin – one of the tracks from the North Devon synth-punkers knockout new EP: Dead End Habit. This evening (28th November) The Dead Betas embark on a UK tour with cult US mayhem-makers Mindless Self Indulgence, who themselves have opened for bands like System Of A Down, Sum 41, Linkin Park and Rammstein. The little leagues this is not. It’s the second time MSI have asked The Dead Betas to open on their UK tour, which this year takes in venues like KOKO in London, Concorde 2 in Brighton, The Liquid Room in Edinburgh, The Ritz in Manchester and The Anson Rooms in Bristol. Something of a step up from The Palladium in Bideford. (I don’t mean any disrespect to that wonderful venue, which is crucial to the local music scene).

The Dead Betas are fully deserving of their spot in the limelight. The new EP alone is evidence of that. It’s a bilious festival of anger, noise and resentment. Dubstep is smashed headfirst into riotous punk riffery on opener The King. You Should Be Mine is 150-seconds of chewy punk and snarling vocals somehow wrought into an irresistibly catchy pop aesthetic. This Town is a polyrhythmic monster that feels like The Dead Betas have just chewed through a mains line. It’s a perfectly conceived, perfectly executed record. The synths are razor-sharp. The feisty guitars are merciless. The rhythms are airtight. The compelling vocal-delivery of Tobias Kennedy Matthews flits between brooding anger and all-out seething, screaming rage. It’s a joy to behold the progress this band have made and they are nothing short of an inspiration. The Dead Betas are going places and you need to put down your advent calendar and listen.

Listen to Dead End Habit at

CONTACT: Alright, you know the score. Send your local music news this way. jharper[at] | @testforpulse

soundCHECK 226 – November 21st 2013

Hands up who can tell me when it became okay to use the word sick to mean really good. At the risk of sounding like a fusty old Telegraph reader lamenting the diminished standards of English while chain-sucking Werther’s Originals in scorn (a prescriptivist I am not), we are on the precipice of a pandemic. A pandemic of linguistic lunacy.

Sick has been making steady in-roads on the Westcountry lexicon over the last twelve months. “Sick gig last night.” “Heard this new record? It’s sick.” You get the idea. Or maybe, like me, you don’t. I can’t seem to reconcile the fact that white British middle-class trust fund babies sipping gin and tonic are talking like they’ve just been deported from Harlem.

Let me issue a reminder. Sick never has been and never will be synonymous with good times. Hangovers? Yes. Heroin overdose? Yes. Louis Walsh’s ceaselessly pious blandishment? Yes, yes, yes. Gigs, however, are not sick. New albums are not sick. Your latest hairdo is not sick. The only way the iconoclastic use of this word displays any loyalty to its literal meaning is in its unstoppable rise, widespread coverage and colourful capacity to shame.

I’m sick of sick and enough is enough. This unsavoury trend has sprayed too far into common parlance. There’s sick in the shops. There’s sick in my shared house. I now have to dodge two types of sick in the pub. My Twitter timeline is clogged up like a gents’ nightclub urinal after a particularly fruity Saturday night. As for marriage vows, well, they just lost even more meaning. In sickness and in health? Pfft. Well done, society. You sound like imbeciles.

It leads to an interesting debate. Should the people (ab)using this word be rounded up to have their tongues cleavered out, or would it be easier just to fire them en masse into space? It’s not my place to say. But swift, decisive action must be exercised. No doubt they’re working on a fix in Westminster. Until then let’s drown out the absurdity with music. First stop, the impossibly beautiful surroundings of Tapeley Park.

North Devon’s fleet-fingered funksters Zamba ( headline the Tapeley Sessions next Wednesday (27th November). And the really good news is that they are supported by thirteen-year-old songwriting starlet Kiera Osment (, whose precocious talent is such that I find it hard to stop singing her praises – despite being acutely less tuneful than her. Go see. Think quiet, candlelit barn and two intimate performances. You can take your own booze too. Kiera Osment 9:00pm, Zamba follow at 10:15pm. Entry is a snip at £3.

Got an internet? Good. Visit and get watching the Sunday Sessions. The North Devon-bred singer-songwriter has embarked on a series of intimately-shot live acoustic performances of his fiery catalogue. First to be aired is Self Help Puncher, which pairs emotional redolence with the kind of bratty post-punk favoured by the kids that were cooler than you in school. The guitar mastery on display here is so good it will make you do a big Technicolor yawn of vomit.

Finally, soundCHECK-regulars Scott Xander Linn & The Broken Bottles. They have made a video for the song Six Feet Under The Bar, freshly plucked from the new Bad Things EP. Feed your peepers at It features SXL&TBB gadding about in the pub and is wonderfully shot by freelance video-doer Sam Brown – himself a product of North Devon.

You have to see it. It’s chunderous.

CONTACT: Got local music news? Do shares with me. jharper[at] | @testforpulse