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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, November 1, 2020

Beguiling; a true gem - Louder Than War

Here's the first half of an insightful review of the Nobody's Perfect 2CD reissue by Ian Canty at the essential Louder Than War website. The second half, which looks at all the additional tracks, will follow soon. 


The Distractions – Nobody’s Perfect

By Ian Canty

Man In The Moon/Occultation Recordings

2CD/Vinyl

Reissue of the long out of print debut album by Manchester’s The Distractions, Nobody’s Perfect, with a host of extra material including the Time Goes By So Slow and You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That? 7 inchers… LTW’s Ian Canty hears one of the great “lost” albums by a truly great band…

The Distractions, formed in Manchester way back in 1975 by kingpins Mike Finney and Steve Perrin, were a treasure of a band. Gathering pace with in the punk/new wave boom of 1977, they married their own take on classic pop with the rough and tumble of the new breed and few (if any) did it better. The promise that they displayed meant the local independent labels swiftly became interested in the band. They subsequently debuted with the You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That EP on the TJM imprint early in ’79. Lead track Doesn’t Bother Me was an early indication of their admirable abilities, taking their time unwinding the song towards a top quality chorus, with power and finesse plus Mike Finney’s excellent voice. This gave both a feeling of immediacy and craftsmanship and was totally endearing too.

After the success of the TJM EP Tony Wilson, who had been keeping a keen eye on the band, offered them a chance to cut their next disc for his fledgling Factory label. The resulting 45 was pure brilliance: Time Goes By So Slow is one of those few songs that will never date, a classic single that retains the freshness and mystique that it established on the very first plays every single time.

Despite their abundant talents, The Distractions weren’t overly cursed with luck. Though in A&R man Nick Stewart they no doubt found a kindred spirit (and he is responsible for this reissue on his own Man In The Moon label) the rest of Island Records, who signed them, didn’t really seem to know what to do with them. As a label they generally struggled with the new wave, which on the whole they steered clear of. Having got The Distractions to sign on the dotted line they tended to view their anti-image with the same sense of puzzlement that they approached The Slits with. The more traditional Eddie And The Hot Rods were luckier, but overall the label were at a loss on how to put over these bright young things and this would have an impact of our heroes and heroine.

By the time of the recorded material presented on this first disc, Perrin and Finney had been joined by Adrian Wright on guitar and a rhythm section of Pip Nicholls and veteran drummer Alec Sidebottom, the latter of whom had previous which included a stint behind the traps for '60s psychedelic act The Purple Gang. These three came with musical talent to burn and it is fair to say were a little overlooked back then. But Wright was a handy songwriter himself and with the rhythm section’s fire, this all added a further layer of depth to The Distractions’ brew.


So this new collection begins with Nobody’s Perfect, the original version of the LP released in 1980. Over the fourteen tracks of the record The Distractions show a rare imagination and ability. It’s very tempting to see them as Buzzcocks’ slightly older brothers and sister, with a worldly and enhanced insight into the workings of the emotional world, but still somehow retaining hope for the fantastic to happen. Opening salvo Waiting For Lorraine gives a decent pointer of their unique skills. A busy, driving rhythm sets the band off to a flying start and the song, as usual excellently interpreted by Finney, runs expertly through the gamut of doubts that go through an anxious lover’s mind when the object of their affection is away from them. It rings true, which is where The Distractions always score highly. Of course the refrain quickly embeds itself too, the tunes are always of a very high quality.

A very pretty version of Eden Kane’s hit Boys Cry was a decent fit for the band and it was released as a single with the hope that a cover might give them a foothold in the charts. This was a reasonable strategy, but it unfortunately failed and really The Distractions’ own songs were so much better. They were a flexible and imaginative outfit too and offered a variety that few others could match, whilst always keeping their own individual identity throughout. Something For The Weekend is catchy and cheeky and the neat little touches, like the rock & roll piano riff that underpins the music on this track, all go to show why they stood out from the pack.

Nobody’s Perfect is such a strong album that it feels wrong to pick out highlights – everything here has something about it that may speak to you and call your heart. Paracetamol Paralysis shows the band weren’t po-faced either, very witty words attached to a riffy piece of punk rock and Nothing is touching and soulful, with a purposeful drive. It’s hard not to imagine that the writers lived these songs and that I suppose is key to why The Distractions sound so great even today. They wore their hearts on their sleeves and they were big hearts indeed.

At the other end of the scale Wonder Girl is Merseybeat repositioned adeptly for the 1980’s and the choral arrangement of Looking For A Ghost is incredible. I can’t think of any other band at the time that would even have tried it, let alone pull it off with such aplomb. Valerie brings Nobody’s Perfect to an all-action rousing end, gentle piano giving way to a rollicking punk pop masterclass. I found this LP beguiling from the get-go, there’s a warmth to it that remained in my mind long after I had finished listening to it, as well as corking tunes all the way through brilliantly played and sung. A true gem.

(c) Ian Canty at Louder Than War. 

To be continued 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Something For The Weekend


Click through this Facebook link to see The Distractions play 'Something For The Weekend' live on TV's Runaround with Mike Reid in 1980! 




Click this download link to obtain a high-resultion video file, courtesy of superfan, Nick Barber.














Monday, August 31, 2020

A classic pop debut - Record Collector

Here's the Record Collector review of the Nobody's Perfect 2CD and LP reissue by Tim Peacock that accompanied the Nick Stewart interview. 




Practice Makes Perfect

Post punk classic reissued. By Tim Peacock

The Distractions

Nobody’s Perfect

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Man In The Moon/Occultation MITM 42 (2CD/LP)

Like so many gifted bands who suffered similar fates, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why The Distractions fell through the cracks. Cited – along with their regular gigging partners Joy Division – by the NME’s Paul Morley as one of Manchester’s brightest hopes (“Joy Division are the perfect rock band for the 80s… and The Distractions are the perfect pop band”), they seemed poised for greatness when they signed to Island, only for their debut album, Nobody’s Perfect, to sink without trace.

In retrospect, the record’s abject failure still seems hard to credit, as The Distractions seemingly held all the aces when it was first released in February 1980. They could easily pull a thousand punters to their hometown gigs and their lone Factory single, Time Goes By So Slow, was as revered locally as Buzzcocks’ What Do I Get?, Magazine’s Shot By Both Sides or Joy Division’s Transmission. 

Whatever the vagaries, though, it’s criminal that Nobody’s Perfect has languished in obscurity for this long. It never previously made it to CD or even caught a whiff of a vinyl reissue, so this bells and whistles 40th anniversary edition – which also includes all the band’s early demos, non-LP singles’n’flips and a 2020 remix of the whole shebang by uber fan/Occultation label boss Nick Halliwell – will be a welcome surprise for long-term fans. It’s as close to a definitive Distractions package as you could wish for.


The Distractions (with Mike Finney, far-right): “diverse and dashing”

Approaching the two discs chronologically reveals just how quickly the band evolved en route to making Nobody’s Perfect. The second disc’s slew of demos from September 1978 and the four tracks from the debut EP, You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That, have retained their original vim and vigour, but while their garage-y energy captures the spirit of the times, the superior song-craft inherent in Maybe It’s Love and the melancholic Nothing demonstrate that this talented quintet had already outstripped the limitations of punk.

Armed with a major label budget for Nobody’s Perfect, The Distractions pulled out all the stops to create a classic pop debut and came heroically close. Seemingly always the bridesmaid, Mike Fnney reveals why he remains the most underappreciated vocalist of his generation on the sumptuous ballads (Still It Doesn’t Ring; a glorious, Spectorian remake of Eden Kane’s 1964 hit, Boys Cry), while tunes as diverse and dashing as the edgy power-pop of Waiting For Lorraine and the swooning Leave You To Dream should have seen chief songwriter Steve Perrin ranked among Mancunian giants such as Graham Gouldman and Pete Shelley many moons ago.

Tying up loose ends, there’s also the three tracks of And Then There’s..., the band’s lone post-Island EP from 1981, which are quirkier and clearly recorded on a shoestring, but produced with little discernible drop-off in quality. To complete the picture, meanwhile, ardent fans and newcomers alike will have a blast comparing and contrasting the original Nobody’s Perfect with Nick Halliwell’s angular modern-day remix, which kicks the record’s outdated keyboard textures into touch and recasts the album in a notably sleeker, radio-friendly light that sounds thrillingly contemporary.




Sunday, July 26, 2020

Infectious pop songs - Record Collector

The biggest mainstream music magazine coverage of the reissue of Nobody's Perfect came in the wonderful Record Collector. Tim Peacock's generous review was accompanied by a Q&A with Man In The Moon's Nick Stewart, one of the main movers behind the long-awaited 2CD and LP reissue. So before the review, here's the Q&A with the former Island Records A&R man.



Q&A


Man In The Moon Records’ Nick Stewart on signing The Distractions to Island and the making of Nobody’s Perfect


You’re famous for your A&R work, signing U2 among others. Is it true you were trying to sign Joy Division to Island when you first heard The Distractions?

Yes. I heard Unknown Pleasures and A Certain Ratio’s 'All Night Party' shortly after I joined Island’s A&R department in August 1979 and thought they were both fantastic, so I met with Tony Wilson, Alan Erasmus and Rob Gretton at Factory’s HQ in Palatine Road, Manchester, in September ’79. I already rated Tony because of his work with Granada TV and I soon found out how single-minded Rob was. When I attempted to sign Joy Division to Island, he made it abundantly clear they weren’t for sale. However, Tony asked if I’d heard The Distractions’ recent Factory single, Time Goes By So Slow. I was a sucker for jangly '60s pop and The Distractions reminded me of The Byrds, so I was smitten as soon as he played me the record. By the time I returned to London, I was determined to sign them.


You originally wanted Gary Usher to helm the Nobody’s Perfect sessions?

I thought Gary Usher was a genius, because he’d done those classic Byrds albums, Younger Than Yesterday and The Notorious Byrd Brothers. To their credit, Island were up for it, but Usher hadn’t made a record for a decade – he’d retired and bought a sweet shop in Seattle! He wanted to produce The Distractions, but he also wanted Island to fly his entire family to London and put them up for a month, which was impossible financially. Eventually Phil Chapman and Jon Astley, who later worked with The Who and Eric Clapton, produced it. I gave them a copy of The Notorious Byrd Brothers and told them I wanted Nobody’s Perfect to sound like it. It didn’t, but they did a great job regardless.


The Distractions came out of Manchester’s punk scene, but they obviously stood apart from the era’s three-chord chancers…

That’s right. I was a big fan of Brinsley Schwartz and Nick Lowe’s music in general and I felt The Distractions had more in common with them and that late ‘70s power pop thing. I didn’t see them as punk at all. Their antecedents were definitely The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and some of the Nuggets acts like The Standells. They harked back to the melodic pop/rock from the mid-to-late ‘60s with West Coast Californian inflections.


The band had a wealth of infectious pop songs and a terrific vocalist in Mike Finney, so why did Nobody’s Perfect fail commercially?

In a sense, The Distractions were like The Only Ones, who also signed to a major label [CBS] and had quite a lot of money thrown at them. They obviously weren’t a “punk” band, either, so like The Distractions, they didn’t fit in with the times – and remember there was also a huge turnover of musical styles back then. For example, 2Tone was big news in 1980 and the new romantics were about to break through. Even so, I was convinced 'It Doesn’t Bother Me' and 'Boys Cry' would both be hits, but Radio 1 just weren’t interested. The album came out and the band toured, but it just never caught fire.


How do you feel Nick Halliwell’s new mix of Nobody’s Perfect compares with the original?

It’s a whole lot brighter and punchier and it’s certainly very 2020. I think he’s done a fantastic job with it and it has a good chance of picking up some of that elusive airplay this time around. Nobody’s Perfect is returning 40 years to the month of its original release in 1980 and it’s never been out on CD before, so the timing’s right and it will be very interesting to see how well it does. It’s been away for a long time, but I think it’s going to get a lot of love at last.

As told to Tim Peacock


Friday, July 17, 2020

Unknown pleasures - Uncut


On to the larger reviews from the music monthlies. This Uncut magazine review from Daniel Dylan Wray in the April 2020 issue scores our reissue at 8/10 and 9/10! Stocks are starting to run low so if you're yet to pick your 2CD and/or LP up head, head to Occultation or Bandcamp.


REDISCOVERED

Uncovering the underrated and overlooked


THE DISTRACTIONS 

Nobody's Perfect

MAN IN THE MOON

8/10

Unknown pleasures from forgotten Manc band

1979 was a musically fertile time for Manchester, and Factory Records were at the centre of it all. That year they put out records by the likes of Joy Division, OMD and A Certain Ratio, and also a 7" by a significantly less feted group, The Distractions. If "Time Goes By So Slow" today sounds like a connecting bridge between post-punk and the jangly indie that followed, in 1979 the group's focus was somewhat antithetical to the post-punk rhythm of the times. Swiftly signing to Island, the group, led by vocalist Mike Finney and guitarist Steve Perrin, released their debut album the following year. Despite some critical warmth, however, Nobody's Perfect sold poorly and just a year later The Distractions disbanded.

Forty years on, though, this curious and charming record, now being reissued, remains unshakably infectious, from the buoyant, almost Blue Oyster Cult-esque skip of opener "Waiting For Lorraine" to their soul-drenched cover of Eden Kane's 1964 hit "Boys Cry". Defying easy labelling, the group wriggle around between new wave, punk, post-punk and soul, and there's an inescapable "wrong place, wrong time" feeling that emanates from these 14 tracks. For a start, there's something inherently and inescapably Liverpudlian about this Mancunian group, with Finney's vocals possessing a touch of Ian McCulloch and their jangle-heavy sound almost like a long-lost blueprint for The La's or The Coral.


Just a few years after Nobody's Perfect's release, the unwinding guitar solos, creamy vocal deliveries and melody-drenched hooks that fill the album would come fully into fashion via the likes of Orange Juice and C86. Perrin would later comment that the band were, "Out of time rather than ahead of it - The Distractions have never seem to fit in with a particular period." As a result, they have fallen into place along with the likes of The Freshies and The Chameleons as somewhat forgotten Manchester bands from the era. Although, as this reissue proves, there's plenty of reasons why that should be remedied. 

Extras: 9/10. Original and remixed version of the album, along with 20 bonus tracks featuring rarities, demos and alternate versions. 

DANIEL DYLAN WRAY



Friday, July 3, 2020

Justified acclaim - Classic Pop


Back to the long round-up of the Nobody's Perfect reissue reviews. This is the first of the absolutely glowing reviews that the release had in the music monthlies: a four-star Classic Pop review by John Earls in March 2020's issue. Nobody's Perfect sits alongside fellow Mancunians, M People - only The Cure's Disintegration and Electronic's self-titled debut received higher scores, and we can't argue with that. The Nobody's Perfect 2CD and LPs are still available from Occultation or Bandcamp (get the 14-track download there too).





THE DISTRACTIONS
NOBODY'S PERFECT
MAN IN THE MOON/OCCULTATION

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Originally signed to Factory, Manchester indie popsters The Distractions were poached by Island's Nick Stewart, the A&R who signed U2. Forty years later, Stewart reissues his charges' debut album on his own Man In The Moon label. His long-standing faith that The Distractions deserve more acclaim is fully justified. 

Singer Mike Finney has the same mix of intense fervour and soulful beauty as Kevin Rowland, while guitarist Steve Perrin's melodies take in Undertones-style melodic punk (Louise), pre-Smiths wistful wonder (Stuck In A Fantasy) and Phil Spector dramas (Boys Cry). 

A lost classic, it may be The Distractions' diversity that proved their undoing as they tear through so many styles and cheerfully master them all. 

The reissue is lovingly done - the original LP on heavyweight vinyl, or a 2CD set featuring 34 bonus tracks compiled from five standalone singles, four demos, a compilation appearance and an alternative mix of the original album by The June Brides producer Nick Halliwell.

Touchingly, The Distractions reformed in 2010. They've released two further albums on Halliwell's label Occulation and still tour. If Nobody's Perfect is any judge, they deserve wider cult hero status. 





Monday, June 29, 2020

New releases

While The Distractions have bowed out after their third and final album, Kindly Leave The Stage, and the triumphant reissue of Nobody's Perfect, this is not to say there will be no more music. In fact, June 2020 has seen not one, not two, but three new releases with a Distracting flavour.

On the same day, Friday 19th June, there were two Bandcamp releases, both in support of great causes (and of course, the fourteen band-owned, Occultation-administered tracks from Nobody's Perfect 2CD set can also be had for just £7). 



Lockdown Live! is a live music project in support of independent music venues in Manchester, including Gullivers and the Eagle, where Mike and Alex's live band have played in recent years. Their June releases continued on the 19th with Lockdown Live Volume 3. The compilation album is available to stream and download in MP3, FLAC and other high-resolution formats for just £5.

The Distractions have contributed a live version of 'Girl Of The Year' to the compilation. The track was recorded on the second evening (Saturday 1st September) of the wonderful Salford Arms gigs back in 2012. This professionally recorded track comes after a number from The Only Ones' Peter Perrett - and of course, the late, great Mike Kellie of The Only Ones played with The Distractions in Salford! 



As mentioned above, Mike Finney, Alex Sidebottom and the new live band of Joe, Chris and Johnny, have been playing around the country for the last few years, and are delighted to rebrand as New Distractions. The first new material from the band is a charity release in support of the COVID-19 Community Response Fund, Manchester. 

'Juliet' and 'Stacey' have been played live in the last year and are - to quote David Quantick from 2010 - "in the great Distractions tradition of songs about girls". In late 2019, New Distractions recorded these two tracks (and several more...) in the studio, and released them on 19th June 2020.

For the price of half a pint (£2) or more, you can also stream and download 'Juliet' and 'Stacey' in MP3, FLAC and high-res formats. A CD release is planned for later in 2020, but we hope you can support what is a great cause in these unprecedented times.


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