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Welcome to the official Distractions website. We will be aiming to record the history of one of the greatest, but least heralded, of all Manchester beat groups.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nobody's Perfect: Volume 2

Here's the first part of Malcolm Carter's recent interview with Steve Perrin for Penny Black (actually, it's the  lengthy introduction, and a good one at that):

Dexys Midnight Runners took 27 years to follow-up ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’, which was not exactly well-received either by the music magazines of the day nor the record-buying public at the time.  Over the years and a number of re-issues it’s strange that it’s now being hailed as a classic by so many.  So to be on the safe side the follow-up album that took over two and a half decades to show is already attracting more attention and praise than the more worthy, even on its original release, ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’. 

Manchester’s The Distractions have taken 32 years to follow-up their debut album, ‘Nobody’s Perfect’which, unlike what we all thought was going to be Dexy’s last album, was appreciated by the music press.  Why the album, which came put on Island Records, never sold in vast quantities will always remain a mystery, as each and every song still sounds as fresh today as they did in 1980 and, despite Kevin Rowland being hailed as one of this country’s best soul singers, The Distractions hold a stronger claim to that title in the shape of vocalist Mike Finney. 

A couple of years ago Occultation Records released not one but two EPs of new Distractions songs, ‘Black Velvet’ and ‘Come Home’.  Without wishing to take any credit away from any of the five original Distractions (Adrian Wright who is no longer a member of the band actually wrote one of the best and Distraction-defining songs on the debut, ‘Stuck in a Fantasy’ [and Time Goes By So Slow - Ed.]) thankfully both vocalist Finney and guitarist and main songwriter Steve Perrin, who were the backbone of The Distractions, returned to the studio. 

As we mentioned back then when we spoke to Perrin and Finney in our first interview with them, the band didn’t have to update their sound or really make any major changes even thirty years down the road as the classic pop that dominated their debut never has and never will date.  So the songs spread over the two EPs sounded like classic Distractions, Finney’s vocals were even more soulful, and Perrin had lost none of his talent for writing instant melodies that often belied his melancholy lyrics and showed what a superb guitarist he still is.  Perhaps the biggest surprise though was that one of the songs, ‘Oil Painting’, on ‘Come Home’ was written by ‘new’ member Nick Halliwell, and that song alone captured all that we loved about The Distractions. 

Things were looking good then; with new blood that so obviously understood what made The Distractions so special all those years ago, a record label seemingly determined to make sure the band didn’t slip by unnoticed again and talk of a new album at last all we could do was hope that it was finally going to happen.

Well, it has.  ‘The End of the Pier’ is released at the end of August 2012 again by Occultation Records, and, apart from six brand new Steve Perrin songs, there are a couple of co-writes with Nick Halliwell and two songs Halliwell wrote alone which once again show how seamlessly he has fitted into the band.  While it’s obvious that the band have matured they have lost none of the passion nor the sound they created back on their debut.  Halliwell produced ‘The End of the Pier’ and in doing so has helped create yet another outstanding collection from the band. 

‘The End of the Pier’ is, in many ways, a natural follow-up to ‘Nobody’s Perfect’.  What would be the point of the band getting back together if they were going to sound completely different?  Then again it could be argued if the world really needs ‘Nobody’s Perfect Volume 2’ which ‘The End of the Pier’ is in a lot of ways.  To anyone who fell for the charms of ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ in 1980 there’s no question that more of the same would be more than welcome.  It would be a crying shame if there was never going to be another Distractions album that followed much the same path as that debut. 

But ‘The End of the Pier’ is so much more than a carbon copy of previous glories.  Maybe it’s the injection of new blood by Halliwell that makes the new album sound contemporary while never for one second discarding the sound that touched so many some thirty years ago.  Maybe it’s the fact that Perrin still writes songs that have that timeless quality to them, or maybe it’s because Finney squeezes so much passion out of each and every line that makes these songs so real, so essential.  Or maybe it’s simply that when these guys get together something unexplainable happens and their talents combined make some of the most honest, direct and tuneful music we’ll ever hear. 

Not only will 2012 go down as the year that The Distractions returned with their second album of classic pop.  It will also be remembered as the year the Distractions finally took to the stage again.  Unfortunately there will only be two gigs, both in Salford at the end of August but who knows? With ‘The End of the Pier’ already attracting more attention than the Distractions’ debut did on release, maybe we shouldn’t give up hope just yet of the band taking on more dates in the future.

[To be continued]

(c) Malcolm Carter at Penny Black.

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