Archive | December 2015

soundCHECK 328 – December 10th 2015

Everyone needs a little escapism from time to time. Too bad that’s basically impossible in December. Christmas is everywhere: in every text message, in every shop, in every water cooler conversation – clogging up your life with the same grim efficiency with which Brian May’s hair dams his shower plughole. I’d imagine.

For most people, December looks like this. Find the decorations, untangle the tinsel and fairy lights, procure a turkey of such godly magnificence that the in-laws will – for once – be speechless, prepare the guest bedroom, buy train tickets to see your sister and realise you may have to remortgage your house to finance them, purchase enough alcohol to incapacitate an army of Spartan warriors, wonder what Black Friday is, what Cyber Monday is and why you are supposed to care.

Don’t even mention Christmas shopping. On 1st December the fact that you have yet to start your search for gifts manifests itself as an intermittent, gentle needling. That feeling multiplies exponentially with each passing day of inaction. Within mere days your every waking moment is veiled by crippling anxiety. And then it happens. The honest intention to finally – finally – put some thought into your gifts this year is replaced with hysterical panic buying – convinced that your gran really will appreciate the nuanced storyline of Fifty Shades Of Grey.

And during all of this, of course, you have to negotiate your regular responsibilities. Feeding your offspring. Not getting sacked from your job. Washing your fetid laundry. Gawping at your ex on Facebook. It’s too much. If Christmas is magic, the countdown is manic. It speaks volumes of the hallowed British resolve that in December we are not all just racing around locked in the grisly clutches of full blown panic attacks.

Still, while escapism might be difficult in December, it’s not completely impossible. Not if The Palladium in Bideford has anything to do with it. This weekend they offer the honourable service of a double header of live music. On Saturday evening (12th December) you can watch Roughnecks reinvent, reimagine and restyle (note: not cover – this lot are more creative) 70s prog rock classics. Then on Sunday evening local acoustic singer-songwriter Chris Millington performs a selection of stripped-down heartfelt acoustic tracks inspired by the rugged beauty and sordid history of the North Devon coast.

Let’s pray that both artists stay away from sleigh bells and Christmas covers.

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

soundCHECK 327 – December 3rd 2015

Knowing the date is not something British people are generally good at. The consensus seems to be to just let other people figure it out and amble through the day. As long as you don’t have somewhere important to be, everything should be okay.

That all changes in December of course – thanks solely to advent calendars endowing life with a confectionary cadence. Hang your head out of the window on a crisp December morning and you can almost hear the united crunching and crinkling of cardboard and foil as eager fingers fling open the relevant day’s door before prizing out a little chocolatey morsel. Advent calendars. I literally can’t think of anything better.

Yet December’s arrival offers more than advent calendars. More than an increased waistline and decreased bank balance. Local grungey types Pretend Happy (what you’re going to have to be on the 25th as you unwrap your third pack of socks) have released a new song. It’s called Save Me, it was unleashed to the world on 1st December and I haven’t heard it yet because I’m writing this in the past instead of the future.

Don’t let that stop you locating your nearest internet machine and sailing off to for listens. The band are a compelling proposition with a feisty, fiery and thoroughly listenable punk-rock/grunge sound that has been bolstered by the addition of ex Oh Captive frontman Tim Kelly on guitar. There’s a lot to be optimistic about for this band – regardless of their name.

The single is the first cut from forthcoming debut album Tired Eyes, which was recorded at The Ranch in Southampton with hotshot producer Lewis Johns, whose CV includes names like Funeral For A Friend, Rolo Tomassi and Gnarwolves. You’ll be able to wrap your lugholes around the album from 8th February. If you’d like your appetite whetted before that, there’s a short ‘making of’ teaser video over at

As for gigs? Well you can catch Pretend Happy performing tracks from the new album at Golden Lion Tap in Barnstaple on Friday 18th December.

Save the date.

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