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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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Monday, February 11, 2013

To be distracted is a pleasure

Another review from the The Hidden History of Manchester's Punk Fanzines at the City Fun exhibition curated by the Manchester District Music Archive.  This review of a Band On The Wall gig is from the 6th November 1979 issue of City Fun (volume 1, number 11) and mentions two as yet unreleased tracks, 'The Shrug' and a cover of Allen Toussaint's ‘Shoo Rah! Shoo Rah!’




Formed in late ’76.  Consistently played in and around Manchester, steadily building a reputation – readers of past issues will be well aware that we all think they’re great.  Steadily improving they play short, snappy pop songs in a vein inherited from the Kinks, Shadows, Small Faces and Flaming Groovies.  They have contemporary similarity with the Buzzcocks (of course), Elvis Costello (listen to the words), Blondie (remember the pop).  They are none of these.   They are original.  They are modern.

Tonight they look neat, cramped uncomfortably on a tiny stage.  Left, Adrian Wright, guitar, keyboards, backing vocals, grey pinstripe jacket, blue stripe short.  Middle Mike Finney, vocals, shirt, tie trousers, casual.  Steve Perrin, guitar, vocals, pink jacket, black shirt, red tie, badge-‘Battered Women Need Refugees’.  Back Alec Sidebottom, drums, unkempt, professional – used to be in the ‘60s Purple Gang.  Right, Pop Nicholllls, bass, white shirt, off white (very off) thin tie, trousers that I thought were green, loose fitting.

They look incongruous, a motley crew, sharp and challenging.

Their set list as follows:- opening with ‘Maybe It’s Love’.  A classic pop song, maybe it is.  Mike Finney demonstrates the inherent strength of his voice, full and mellow, they move quickly… a steady stream of potential hit singles.  ‘…Weekend’, one of their best newer songs.  A memorable chorus sounding sad but true as we are informed that is it just something for the weekend.  ‘Waiting For Lorraine’, this is brilliant clear noise, guitars shimmering, driving, skitting across the frets in a wash of sound that remains in my head two days later.  The rhythm is driving and cutting.   The wit and blade, Steve Perrin, introduces “one to stand still to”, ‘The Shrug’, some kind of ultimate dance tune, beat aimed at the feet, each verse progressively faster.  Dead still, Mike Finney sings the words quickly and clearly, his delivery clipped almost throwaway.  He shrugs but if you don’t pay attention you miss it.  Smart.  The bank crank up behind him, the most over the top song they play, ‘Still It Doesn’t Ring’, when Perrin and Finney write songs the telephone never rings and everyone waits up all night with a broken heart.  The organ gets an airing, its chopped tones adding an extra dimension halfway between church and Woolworths.  Most of the songs are about love, no-one lives happily ever after…

Steve Perrin expresses his dislike over a technical hitch.  Pip Nicholllls starts a humming bass riff, Alec Sidebottom takes up the rhythm.  I’m thinking they’re filling the gap.  Adrian Wright changes guitars.  Perrin unleashes a guitar break.  The vocals start crooning seriously and we are well into The Distractions’ disco excursion, ‘Sick and Tired’.  Wright concentrating intently, chopping funk riffs at 78 rpm.  Finney shuffling sideways on heels and toes, hands making graphic gestures.  ‘Stuck In A Fantasy’ – a new one less dynamic range than their older material, it chugs and beats, the drums approaching hypnotic at the end of the song.  Finally, ‘Valerie’, another classic from the early days.  Bass, moody blips and pulses, continual bubbling; Pip Nicholllls giving looks to band and audience alike.  Perrin’s cut features staring sideways from his eyes.  The band at full tilt.  The drumming some of the best you’ll hear.  Finney giving it this with his voice and that with the loose knee shuffle.  For an encore then do ‘Shoo Rah! Shoo Rah!’, a Allen Toussaint song, a great version multi-racial chorus and opposing swathes of noise across my ears.

The Distractions set their own standards.  They are one of those rare bands who play gigs that me glad I was there and nowhere else at that particular time.  Tonight is not one of those nights.  Tonight is exhilarating.  The Distractions are friendly.  Mike Finney laughs, smiles and jokes; we get introduced to his jacket, hung up at the back of the stage “which isn’t working tonight”.  Some members of the audience dance and are asked to collect their wages afterwards.

The band do not quite gel and then stick.  The music/entertainment is excellent… towards the end of the  set two smart men walk over and put their heads in the speaker cabinets, they appear to confer, they nod their heads, it’s OK.  The Distractions stimulate my emotions as The Fall stimulate my intellect.  Incisive, witty, snappy, abrasive.  They are sexual, they are straight-laced.  They are clean-cut.  To be distracted is a pleasure.  “A sick fantasy is better than none at all.”  I’m in love.

Andy Zero

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