Archive | April 2015

soundCHECK 296 – April 23rd 2015

Sigh. The lead up to another general election. I can’t bear it. And not because of the unrelenting machismo, manipulation and mandatory posturing of smile-for-the-camera political leaders. Sure, that’s annoying, but it’s tolerable. No, the very worst thing about an impending election is the chilling realisation that I have to make a decision.

That stance might sound narcissistic, but you don’t know the depth of my indecisiveness. If my indecision were a forest it would make the Sundarbans look like Jungle Land at St. John’s Garden Centre. How am I meant to decide who should lead the country when I struggle to choose which pair of socks to put on in the morning? Giving me the vote is not good for society.

This is not an issue of political disengagement. But if it were, a song called Great Britain by Regime would make a damn good soundtrack. In a nutshell it’s one of the most humorous and intelligent avant-garde political protest songs ever written. One where the self-proclaimed status of Great Britain is paradoxed with wry observations like:

It’s a down-five-pints-and-get-in-a-scrape Britain. Take a look around it’s an overweight Britain – all spotty and fat you’ve had too much cake Britain. Travelling around I see a cruel Brittania. Playing the common man like he’s a fool Brittania.

The song was penned by Bristol-based hip-hop and reggae fusion Regime (go listen at And this Saturday (25th April) the five-piece perform at The Palladium in Bideford, with support from Bideford’s own fusion of reggae, ska and funk: Skata Tones. (Recommended listening: the fantastic Celebrity at Doors are at 8pm, entry is £3.

Keen to grab their own slice of the syncopation pie – and proving that as soon as the sun makes even the slightest appearance, North Devon defaults to summer vibes – is Lilico’s, who host six-piece reggae outfit Lionstar ( tomorrow (Friday April 24th) from 10pm (free). It’s all a bit reggae-by-numbers and at times appears a little contrived, but the group have just finished a few gigs with Lee Scratch Perry and are clearly doing something right.

The most exciting thing about Lionstar is their website, where, whether by design or otherwise, you can play four of their tracks. Simultaneously. If there’s any more fun to be had online, I don’t know what it is. The resulting aural mêlée is a brow-furrowing whirlwind of offbeat guitar strums, deep-groove basslines and piercing trumpets – the kind of sound that would burst into the air were you to travel back in time and cleaver open Bob Marley’s brain.

In fact, someone should illustrate that image for Lionstar’s website.

CONTACT: Please talk to anyone but me, unless you have local music news: jharper[at] | @testforpulse

soundCHECK 295 – April 16th 2015

Music and charity have a complex relationship. Obviously the right song, album or musical event is capable of raising millions of pounds for deserving causes. The trade-off is that you usually have to sit and stare at the pious, self-satisfied smiles of artists who you suspect are offering their time not for charity, but for the positive PR, media coverage and elevated profile. Faux altruism. Fauxtruism.

It’s pretty refreshing, then, when this grandstand sanctimoniousness plays truant. Step forward Johnny Sharp, who has just released his debut solo album The Distance Between Us and pledged to donate £3 from every album sold to Cancer Research UK.

Sharp makes sincere, down-to-the-ground piano and guitar ballads. For some it will be a bit too middle-distance-staring, clenched-fist-descending-from-face-to-torso, banging-a-caged-fence-in-the-rain music. But you can’t please everyone, right? More importantly, the album is replete with genuinely beautiful piano arrangements and acoustic guitar riffs. All dovetailing toward warm crescendos and flawlessly executed key changes. If you like your music tender and emotive, if a little predictable at times, you should head to as fast as an internet can carry you. The production quality of The Distance Between Us is fantastic too. Mastered at Abbey Road and it shows.

Clearly ill-content with merely donating album proceeds to Cancer Research, Sharp also recently helped organise a charity fundraiser in Appledore called Music Is Life. Ten local bands. Booze. Food. You get the idea. The result of Sharp’s unsolicited charitable enterprising is that he has raised more than £1,250 for Cancer Research UK – and counting. Which is awesome.


One of the ten bands that performed at Music Is Life was The Joydanaires. They are one of North Devon’s most exciting new bands: a bona fide trio of down-the-line noisemakers with custom amps and attitude. The lineup is Benny Joy (guitar, harmonica, vocals); James Walden (drums) and Giles Isaac (bass) – the latter of whom is sometime bass player for the aforementioned Johnny Sharp.

The Joydanaires make a hurricane of a sound. As far as genre classifications go you can put them in the psychedelic 70s garage-rock pigeonhole. Big, swampy riffs. Bluesy harmonica. Relentless rhythm section. Without sounding too obsequious, The Joydanaires sound really, really good. The kind of grab-it-by-the-scruff-of-the-neck band that has the talent to match the attitude. The kind of band, in fact, that North Devon needs more of.

Which is exactly why you should go and see them tomorrow night (Friday 17th April) at The Olive Branch in Barnstaple, where the regular clientele will presumably be flummoxed by a band performing, you know, original material. Entry is free, the band are on at 9pm. Prime your lugholes at

CONTACT: Please talk to anyone but me, unless you have local music news: jharper[at] | @testforpulse