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the official distractions website

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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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Embracing the pop idiom

A step back into the recent past, this is the blog that kick-started it all. In this first part, The Granite Shore's and Occultation's Nick Halliwell (later to become The Distractions' new guitarist!) discusses the group's ethos and the debut EP:

Written in granite: Looking For A Ghost

There are now very few of my very, very favourite albums which are yet to appear on CD and there's only one I can only think of released on a major label: The Distractions' Nobody's Perfect, which came out on Island in 1980. I remember buying it, it was in a sale and also in that same sale I came across an original US copy of Big Star's Third on PVC records. This was so much better than the UK version, often known as Sister Lovers that even today I always programme the CD to play the fourteen tracks from the PVC version in the order I know and love. But that's a matter for another day because today we're looking at The Distractions.

Should they have been huge? Well... In terms of their songwriting and the records they made oh yes, undoubtedly, they're so much better than their nearest southern equivalent, probably Squeeze. Except that where Squeeze were all nudge-nudge, wink-wink and undoubtedly very clever but ultimately not terribly exciting, The Distractions' records were perfect. However, as the LP title points out, Nobody's Perfect and the band's problem was... there's no getting away from it, I'm afraid – they looked like the junior staff of a bank who'd jumped up on stage at a party. Although this actually endeared them still further to people like myself, it was never going to see them become proper pop stars. A horrible irony as they were one of the first post-punk groups which genuinely embraced the pop idiom. 

At the time when I first heard them, on the debut EP You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That, I was shocked at the sound of the thing. The guitars weren't buzz-saw Ramones/Buzzcocks at all! Pretty much every new group releasing their first record then (the EP came out as a 12" on TJM Records in 1978) had the distortion switched on. Indeed, as Mancunians I was expecting something along the lines of the Buzzcocks, a group I adored at the time as they wrote fantastic pop songs but delivered them with attitude – and a buzz-saw guitar sound. The sounds of The Distractions' instruments weren't punk at all, and in many ways I felt this made them more punk than many of the other records appearing at the time. Like Pete Shelley, they dealt in matters of the heart, but they did so on a much more down-to-earth level; there was nothing coy about them at all.

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