Tuesday, May 31, 2011
If you thought Debra Daley's scathing Melody Maker review of Nobody's Perfect was harsh on the album, then you ain't seen nothing yet. In another City Fun extract kindly supplied by Mike Noon, here is Lynn Paul's take on The Distractions' only album (not for long...). We promised to bring you the history the The Distractions, so here it is, unique spelling included (at least they liked Mike's vocal):
THE NEW SEEKERS REVIVAL IMMINENT??
Our fearless correspondant [sic], Lynn Paul, investigates............
Music for pregnant mums, and other high blood pressure victims. Music to soothe. Music to lull - escapism.
This artifact [sic] you are about to hear bears no resemblance to real life.
Imagine if you will.... 5 musicians locked in a 24 track studio who have aspirations to follow in the 'mighty' footsteps of Sad Café.
Never has a title been so apt... 'Nobody's Perfect'.
As you are cocooned around this city in an orange and white bus, you will doze off into a world of clean dreams, and sliding into your dreams 'sound in motion offerings of escapes to exotic islands' with light orchestrations of popular hits. Nesting comfortably with music for pleasure..... THE DISTRACTIONS. Valium for the masses.
Different tracks on this debut album are indistinguishable from one another: a gluttony of 'Tasteful Arrangements', bland songs and Such 'Proffesionalism' [sic].
On the whole album there is not one spark of energy or comittment [sic].
It's pitiful to hear Mr Finney's excellent voice blended in with this mash. Indeed Mike Finney is the only one who comes out of this project with any credibility. Why doesn't he go and join a soul band like 'Q Tips' who are in need of such a distinguished 'Black Voice'.
I have absolutely no respect for the rest of the group. Without Finney, the Distractions are a dull, unimaginative band of would-be 'musicians'. Second rate trash like 'Interview, The Records' and their ilk. Bargin-bin [sic] bands.
Not renowned for being the most pleasant of persons, this diatribe will be what is expected of me, but........ The Distractions have now reached a stage where they are surrounded by sychopants [sic], back slappers, and parisites [sic] like Brandon Leon, John Astley and Phil Chapman.
It's a shame.
This record 'Nobody's Perfect' is utter bilge. Mediocre. Mediocre. Mediocre. They ought to be downright ashamed at releasing such a innofensive [sic], trite M.O.R. record.
I just wish somebody they liked and respected would tell them so.
The Distractions 1981 entrants for the Eurovision Song Contest.... They make Prima Donna seem like Cabaret Voltaire.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
From the Manchester fanzine City Fun comes this review of Nobody's Perfect in an article entitled "Yang and Ying", where the counterpoint is the form of a rather scathing article on The Distractions (to come)! Thanks as ever to Mike Noon at the Manchester District Music Archive this.
(c) Mike Noon at the Manchester District Music Archive.
THE DISTRACTIONS - Nobody's Perfect (Island)
The title could well be a reference to they with whom The Distractions attract most frequent comparison - the Undertones of the perfect band status and the Buzzcocks perfect singles band. Which brings me neatly round to the "Modern romantic" tag ostentatiously applied to segregate certain bands from the moniker could equally apply. Not that the public have been readily manipulated in this instance as they still await Distractions tunes blaring from the radio at frequent intervals as the Korgis or even the dreaded Motors are.
That The Distractions have failed so far proves that they are hardly the most industrious band around, indeed I find the lack of unforseen occurrences on this album of greater disappointment then the vigilant production.
But for now it can be stated that "Nobody's Perfect" is their ultimate, abruptly serving the past from all future events whilst presenting a clear indication of their considerate abilities at crafting sings of varying lengths and paces.
Of course potential does not always equal accomplishment and whereas "Something For The Weekend" and "Paracetamol Paralysis" have been sufficiently harnessed/preserved, "Waiting For Lorraine" and "Still It Doesn't Ring" are a shade lack-lustre particularly compared the kaleidoscopic mix of guitar and keyboards employed on someone else's song "Boys Cry".
The remainder of the album drifts leisurely in and out of such focus, Mike Finney's gifted vocalism being the most consistently sharp factor.
That "Valerie" appears as an appendix to the album as with their stage repertoire, enforces my theory that the album is devoid of any surprise element. Its total omission from recorded work would surely have been a shrewd move to preserve as a stage favourite what is is basically a pretty shoddy song.
Despite misgivings I probably like this album more than I care to admit to the live audience in from of whom this review was typed.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
The second part of Paul Morley's missive from The Great Pop Wars from the 27th October 1979 NME (first part here).
HAPPINESS IS JUST A DISTRACTION
A MANCHESTER pub, a table, The Distractions getting drunk. Four boys and a girl who likes girls. Singer Mike Finney, guitarist Steve Perrin, guitarist Adrian Wright, drummer Alex Sidebottom and bassist Pip Nicholls. A chubby one, a small one, a serious one, a scruffy one and a girl who likes girls. "I tried to pretend I was bisexual," Pip says, "but I just couldn't con myself." Pip's presence, which is treated as no big deal, emphasises the ambiguity in Distractions songs of relationships and reasoning.
They entered the year having been around since the time Buzzcocks were just breaking out of Manchester, and seemed to be going nowhere. They had established a sound and were confident about it.
They could have gone two ways; 'noise' ('Sister Ray') or arranged songs ("I'd always wanted to play the guitar solo in 'I Heard Her Call My Name'."). Determined to reject rather than passively absorb influences, they went for arranged songs.
Tony Davidson, a local businessman who runs a rehearsal studio and record label and fancies himself as a whizz kid pop entrepreneur, charged up to the group: "Hey, you got a good review in Sounds, how do you fancy me putting a record out for you?" He didn't like the group much, but somehow, out of a multitude of disagreements and misunderstandings, a four track EP came out on Davidson's flash TJM label. I could do nothing but make 'You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That' single of the week. It's still a favourite.
It wasn't a very good business deal, but at least The Distractions had a record out and a few more people picked them out of the crowd. Tony Wilson of Factory Records asked if they'd like to put a record out on his label.
They in turn asked if he'd like to be their manager. He had to decline. He likes to think of the people he manages as 'his children.' He calls A Certain Ratio, a group he does manage, 'my boys.' He admitted he couldn't feel that way about The Distractions, despite loving their music. Drummer Alex, after all, is older than Wilson, with a history with local groups stretching way back into the '60s.
Local studio man Brandon Leon became their manager, and produced their records. "I went along to see them for the first time at TJ Davidson's rehearsal studio. He'd asked me to see this group," he recalls, "and they were playing, with no PA, and it was awful. Oh god, I thought, what have I let myself in for. I turned to the guy who was stood next to me, he looked like one of the band's father, and I asked him what he did. I'm the lead singer, he said."
After much humming and haaing, the Factory single was Finney-Perrin's 'Time Goes By So Slow' backed with Wright's 'Pillow Fight'.* I could do nothing but make Factory 12 single of the week.
Ripples reached Island Records.
ON A quiet grey Sunday afternoon a few weeks later, sat all alone in my London flat I phone Steve Perrin. Hey, I say, I go to America for a couple of weeks and when I get back you've signed with bloody Island Records. No longer on the outside looking in!
"Yeah, it happened quick really," he tells me. "People at Island seem to want to update their image, and we were encouraged to sign because they've signed The Slits and the B-52's and it seemed good people to go with. It wasn't really surprising when it happened. And now we're getting gigs in London and we can't get any gigs in Manchester." He sighs at the injustice.
The group have arrange a free gig at Manchester's Fun House on December 1st - the first date available; a present for their fans. They've re-done 'It Doesn't Bother Me' with John Astley producing for their first single, and will be preparing an LP in January.
"We went through a week of just being really pleased," says Perrin, which sounds like something a member of a pop group would say, "but now we're getting down to some hard work and rehearsal, cos it's easy for it to all fall flat.
"In a way it's weird cos like I still get the NME every week and see all these names that are getting on TOTP and now we're close to them... like opening the NME and seeing that big picture of Mike staring out at me from the live pages. It frightens me... I don't think we've really come to terms with it yet. I hope we never really do, in a way."
THE DISTRACTIONS are the types who always get the slobbering, non-stop chattering idiot sat next to them on the bus. They're the confused underdogs, each in different ways.
Their songs are born out of unfortunate problem page experiences, nervousness, wry humour, revenge, relief. With vivid accuracy and comprehensive urgency they deal with inadequacy, hesitancy, prejudice. Wise words about naivety and jealousy that drip with delicious imagery.
Like the two other great British pop groups XTC and The Undertones there are two sets of songwriters within the band. Adrian Wright's songs are weary, almost nasty. Perrin-Finney songs are bitter, twisted, ironic, hurt...
"I'm basically very romantic," decides Perrin, "but there's just so many things fighting against it. I know that jealousy is the most absurd thing in the world but it doesn't stop me getting ridiculously jealous. I wish someone would get jealous about me! That's a hell of a compliment. It's like I've written all these songs about other people, why doesn't somebody write a song about me!"
"That's because they don't know you've written songs about them!" Finney points out.
Maybe Pete Shelley has written a song about you, I say. "It's a possibility," says Perrin as we reach the station and he flings me out of the car.
Paul Morley, NME, 27 October 1979
* Of course, it's the other way round - 'Time Goes By So Slow' was Adrian's!
Thursday, May 19, 2011
The latest great news from Occultation concerns the eagerly awaited album from The Wild Swans, their first for 21 years. We've waited even longer for The Distractions next long player, but in other news, there's confirmation that Mike, Steve & Co. (complete with new and notable drummer - more on that later) are in the studio in June to begin recording their first album since 1981.
News from Occultation
20th May 2011
Occultation Recordings can now announce pre-ordering for the long-awaited (really) new Wild Swans album The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years. The really exciting bit is that, exclusively, we also have a companion EP called Tracks In Snow, which will only be available from the Occultation Shop and from the band on their UK tour in June. As usual, there are various configurations:
3) As part of a package with other Occultation vinyl and/or CD releases - this saves you money on both the items themselves and the P&P and supports us.
We expect to have stock of both the album and the EP in 10 days or so although, as in the past, you'll be automatically e-mailed a link to free 320k MP3s of the album once your purchase goes through. The album can also be purchased in MP3 format here but please note that for the moment at least, the EP is only available when purchased with the CD album. If you're interested in a combination of our releases not shown on the Packages page, please contact us. See Occultation Shop note below.
The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years is the first new Wild Swans album since the late 1980s, it features twelve songs, including new versions of the two previous Occultation singles. The band on the album is Paul Simpson, Ricky Maymi, Mike Mooney, Les Pattinson, Richard Turvey and Steve Beswick. The Tracks In Snow EP features three non-album songs recorded at the same sessions. Both come in deluxed packaging featuring the painting Camp by Ged Quinn. The album comes with a full-colour inner sleeve and 16-page lyric booklet and the EP in a full-colour special sleeve with lyrics. Initial EP stocks are limited so first-come, first-served.
The Wild Swans on tour: June 7th: Glasgow Captains Cabin - June 8th: Manchester Ruby Lounge - June 9th: Bristol Thekla - June 10th: London Bush Hall - June 11th: Liverpool Stanley Theatre
The Distractions will be in the studio recording their second album, a mere 31 years after the first, in June, and work will also be continuing on the debut Granite Shore album. The Factory Star LP and CD are both now in stock and available from the Occultation Shop, there's also a special price if you'd like to buy both together, plus various package prices with the Wild Swans album and other Occultation releases.
As we've now got rather a lot of releases and can't offer packages for every configuration, we're now offering just some of the most popular packages. We've also kept the reduced P&P charges for each additional item we announced last time. If anyone does want to purchase multiple items not shown as a package, you can always drop us a line for a special price.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Here's part one of A missive from The Great Pop Wars by Paul Morley from the 27th October 1979 NME.
HAPPINESS IS JUST A DISTRACTION
IN THE basement of a small recording studio in Manchester pop's newest darlings are rehearsing.
Instruments and speakers are squashed into the dark cellar leaving just enough room for five Distractions to stand or sit, and for me to squat and listen. Listen to a series of songs so succinct and suggestive; pure pop songs. It's not quite fair to describe The Undertones as 'perfect pop' without becoming fully acquainted with The Distractions' mature and endless repertoire. The spirit is the same. It confuses the cynics, and wins the hearts of those who know and will not be swayed.
The Distractions sound is distinguished by the needly, jangly guitar quarrelling of Steve Perrin and Adrian Wright: "I just wanted to find a sound as far away as possible from the usual heavy riffing," explains Perrin, "and this is what I ended up with."
Distinguished by the subtle, seductive soul singing of the unlikely looking Mike Finney; "I like Otis Redding," Finney says, "but I can't sing like him! I tell you, if Wilson Pickett said tomorrow that our new single was great I'd be over the moon."
Distinguished by the fluid orchestrated passion of the five instrumentalists... "That's work innit?" dismissed Perrin, "we work hard on the guitar parts and the vocal parts... at the moment the five people are working really well. I'm not going to kid myself that it's going to last forever but while it is I'm going to make the most of it."
The group rehearses into the night. Organising still further the devastating detail of songs already recorded, 'it Doesn't Bother Me', 'Maybe It's Love' from their four track EP 'You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That', the new single 'Time Goes By So Slow' and its B side 'Pillow Fight' and classics known and loved by their considerable home following, 'Waiting For The Rain', 'One Way Love', and legendary 'Valerie'.
A MANCHESTER pub, a table, The Distractions sat around the table.
"I hate corny dancers," Finney says, utterly uncaring about his uncool double chin and wiry spectacles. "If there's one thing i can't stand it's corny dancers! They're even worse them lousy comics!"
The Distractions are in a good mood. After all, this very day they've received free passes for Manchester's respectable nightclub The Factory. A sign of success. And that's not all. "Howard Devoto likes to stand around in clubs and let everyone see him," Finney whispers in my ear, "and he usually doesn't let on to me. The other day he waved at me! Like this," he raises his arm, "I thought, waving! What's this!?"
"That's when he decided he'd arrived," explains Perrin, "when Howard Devoto waved to him!"
Now, of course, The Factory has closed. And The Distractions are probably hipper than Howard Devoto.
In the Manchester pub, we're wondering about The Distractions' sound. "I don't know what to call it," shrugs Perrin, "think of a name and I shall reject it!"
He gets very earnest when any sort of label is mentioned.
"I do! It's terrible innit? I hate living up to labels... we are a whatever group... Kelloggs! We are a Kelloggs group!... people ask us what sort of music do you play. It's the most stupid question! What can you say?"
"The nearest I get," offers Finney, "when people ask me what we play is well do you know the Buzzcocks, it's a bit like that only now. What can you say?"
You could try Starry Eyed And Laughing. The Distractions' guitar sound perversely resembles the old Zigzag favourites energetic interpretation of Byrd patterns.
"Well I will from now on," humours Finney.
THE GROUP are rehearsing in the studio cellar for a strange date on the Norway cabaret circuit.
Seriously!? The ghost of Less Dawson lurks in the background. It's desperation, really. They've been playing through necessity the incestuous, limited Manchester rounds for approaching two years, and feeling frustrated. "We played Sheffield once," cracks Perrin, "and we got travel sick."
But Norway? Cabaret? The group shrug their shoulders. It's be an experience.
On stage, the group look the part. Their presence is lovable verging on the Opportunity Knocks; there is a huge disruptive gap between the way they look and the searing sensitivity of their songs. A deceptiveness comparable with The Undertones.
But Norway? Cabaret? Perrin particularly hated the idea, but the vision of months with no gigs carried them through to the audition. Their true feelings have them getting drunk, insulting the panel of judges and playing what they felt was terrible. They hoped in a way they'd blown it. They learnt next day that they'd booked for a month of Norway nightclubs.
They never went. A few days after painfully deciding that, no matter what, they couldn't face the degradation, Island Records moved in with the pen, the paper and the promises.
- To be continued -
Paul Morley, NME, 27 October 1979
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Some more snippets from the City Fun fanzine - these are from 1980. Thanks again to Mike Noon at the Manchester District Music Archive for the scans.
Steve Perrin has finally left The Distractions after months of promising to. The Distractions are currently rehearsing with Arthur Kadmon (ex-Manicured Noise, Ludus and some brilliant demo tapes) who will be playing two dates with them in Ireland this weekend.
The Distractions' next single will be another song from the "Nobodies Perfect" (sic) album - probably a recorded or remixed version of 'Something For The Weekend'.
WOULDN'T YER JUST KNOW IT. Talking of The Distractions we have confirmed proof of them letting the side down again (as if getting on with grown-ups wasn't bad enough). During their current national tour, the manager of one hotel actually wrote to the record company, complimenting them on their good behaviour. Manager Brandon (absolutely) Leon was unavailable comment. As it it wasn't bad enough, Mike buying a dinner jacket and Pip giving up chewing tobacco and swearing. This is the last straw, I mean to say, couldn't they have made a bit of an effort and knocked over an ash tray or pinched a beermat or something? When asked if they were trying for a spot on "Pop Gospel", Brandon (absolutely) Leon replied, "Oh absolutely". Supporting The Members, eh? Thought you'd given up social work, Steve. (This is really good, isn't it?). I mean you don't get snippets like this in the Nationals.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
In the first of a series of extracts from the Manchester fanzine, City Fun, here's a news piece on the debut EP from 1978. Thanks to Mike Noon at the Manchester District Music Archive for the scan.
(c) Mike Noon at the Manchester District Music Archive.
THE DISTRACTIONS... 12" EP
"YOU'RE NOT GOING OUT DRESSED LIKE THAT", on Manchester's own TJM label seems to be taking off even better than expected. It received rave reviews from Paul Morley in last week's NME, even reaching the exalted position of... "SINGLE OF THE WEEK". We told you ages ago. The band are currently busily engaged in more studio work, and also carefully considering various offers regarding future recording. There was no definite comment on the various stories which have appeared recently concerning future contracts, but the consensus of opinion at CITY FUN is that they will receive an offer from a major company in the very near future. For a band with a "SINGLE OF THE WEEK" - NME, and "DEMO SINGLE OF THE WEEK" - Sounds, the transition to "Hit Record of the Century" should be quite smooth. The band, meanwhile, are committed to no external influences, and remain in control of their own affairs.