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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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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Live in Salford

Videos from the Friday night gig at the Kings Arms in Salford, taken by Luis Finney, Mike's eldest:

Leave You To Dream

Waiting For Lorraine


Girl Of the Year


Watch this space for more videos from both nights, filmed in HD and with desk audio...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A perfect album

Malcolm Carter's glowing review of The End Of The Pier at the highly recommended Penny Black Music website.  There are links to the other Distractions pieces at the bottom of the article:

Distractions: The End of the Pier 

Reviewed By: Malcolm Carter 

Label: Occultation Records 

Format: LP / CD / DL

Thirty-two years ago Manchester band The Distractions released their debut album, ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, to rave reviews but very few sales.  It remains a mystery why that album, which followed a handful of brilliant singles, didn’t sell.  Fourteen songs which still sound fresh today, a singer in Mike Finney who is surely one of Britain’s most underrated vocalists, and a guitarist in Steve Perrin who not only wrote melancholy tunes that once heard would never leave you, but also wrote some of the most affecting lyrics of the era. 

Perrin’s greatest songs, some of which were co-written with Finney, were his love songs; never one to take the usual route there was always a twist in Perrin’s lyrics.  We’d all been there.  “You’ve got too much pride and too little to do / And what you want to wear is all that matters to you / Suppose the tedium must drive you mad”, were Perrin's lyrics almost spat out in frustration by Finney 33 years ago now, and which appear on one of the singles that didn’t make it onto that debut album (It Doesn’t Bother Me, an Island single from 1979), and have lost none of their effect over more than three decades.

The Distractions made pop music that said something, that meant something; they wrapped their lyrics in melodies that were instantly appealing but which you’d never tire of.  In 1980 the band could have been seen as being out of time.  While The Undertones at that time were still releasing classic pop singles and  Buzzcocks had fairly recently ended their run of the same, The Distractions' take on classic pop was a little different from their contemporaries.  While both those bands, and many others, had tried to add a modern slant to their pop, The Distractions, it seemed, just did what came naturally and by doing so created a sound uniquely their own that while taking a sly look at the past was never overwhelmed by it.  But the record buying public just didn’t get it.

Fast-forward to 2010 and Occultation Records issued two EPs by a reformed Distractions.  The only two original Distractions involved were, thankfully, Perrin and Finney and, apart from a re-recording of a track from ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, we were given five new songs spread over the two EPs.  It was as though they had never been away.  A little world-weariness might have crept into Finney’s still soulful vocals but it was somehow fitting after all this time.  Five new songs from The Distractions were more than we could have hoped for, especially when they had lost none of that unique sound.  Most surprising was that, although Steve Perrin had lost none of his songwriting skills, one of the standout tracks, Oil Painting, was written by Nick Halliwell, who was now also handling some guitar parts, and both the melody and lyrics were classic Distractions.  You just couldn’t see the join.  But then it went quiet.  Again.

There was talk about a new album but given that The Distractions' main players were now scattered around the globe it seemed too much to hope for.  Then Occultation Records announced that a new album, ‘The End of the Pier’, would be released in August 2012 and that The Distractions would actually play at least a couple of gigs in Salford at the end of the month too.  It brought back memories of waiting for the local record shop to open on a Saturday morning, and it’s obvious that with ‘The End of the Pier’ the band has lost none of the soul, passion and melodic flair that it showed 32 years ago. 

Joining Perrin, Finney and Halliwell this time are Nick Garside (keyboards who also made an appearance on both EPs and handled some of the production then), Arash Torabi (bass, the June Brides and the Granite Shore) and Mike Kellie (drums, the Only Ones and more importantly Spooky Tooth).  Production is by Nick Halliwell and much like Garside did on the the EPs, he has captured that classic Distractions sound perfectly. 

So if ‘The End of the Pier’ sounds uncannily like a 32-year-old album does it have any relevance today?  Yes, it does. The reason ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ worked so well back then, and why it still stands up today is because the music made by The Distractions then was timeless.  Apart from Finney’s vocals which have naturally matured and which makes them even more suited to the music Perrin is writing these days, the music The Distractions make on ‘The End of the Pier’ is really a continuation of what the band started on ‘Nobody’s Perfect’.  It’s like an older brother to ‘Nobody’s Perfect’; the same but different.  Once again these songs are timeless little gems that will never date. 

Apart from six new Steve Perrin originals, Nick Halliwell co-wrote two songs with Perrin and also contributes two songs of his own.  Much like Halliwell’s sole song on the ‘Come Home’ EP, his songs here fit in perfectly.  The whole album sounds like it was written by the same person.  Much like original member Adrian Wright’s contribution to ‘Nobody’s Perfect’(Stuck In A) Fantasy, the difference between the songs is seamless. 

I Don’t Have Time, a Perrin composition, kicks off the album.  It's one of the edgier Distractions tunes, Perrin’s distinctive guitar still showing signs of the angular work that dominated some of the band’s previous songs.  It opens the album in much the same way that Waiting For Lorraine did on ‘Nobody’s Perfect’.  While the band have slowed things down since then, there’s still that grittiness in Finney’s vocals, and the interplay between the vocals and the scorching guitar towards the end of the song is something the band maybe couldn’t have captured during their earlier years. 

Wise, the second song, is one of Halliwell’s and the first taster of those haunting ballads that The Distractions are so good at.  Finney opens the song with the lines “I swore I’d never share a room with you again/Yet here we are with twin beds pushed apart”, and you’re immediately transported into the song.  A song about ageing, in keeping with The Distractions tradition it is hardly lyrically straight forward, and those expected twists are there.  Halliwell shows that he’s a perfect choice for The Distractions.  He is certainly a match for Perrin in the songwriting stakes, and as Perrin is one of our unsung heroes when it comes to writing melancholy songs which strike home that’s some comparison. 

By the time you get to the third song, Perrin’s Girl Of The Year it really is like The Distractions have never been away.  A pretty melody coupled with a touching vocal performance from Finney (just why isn’t this guy hailed as one of our greatest soul singers?  Finney puts so much emotion into each and every word) again shows that The Distractions are masters at creating pop music with substance, the song is littered with lines that demand you take notice and Finney’s vocals pull you into each song.  You’ll end up knowing the characters in these songs.  If you don’t already. 

Boots is one of the Perrin/Halliwell co-writes, and the lilting melody betrays the lyrics about returning home and finding your way in life and again is lyrically very clever.

Perrin again shows that he is the master of those haunting ballads mentioned earlier with When It Was Mine.  This yearning song would be a highlight on any other album, but there is not a throwaway song on ‘The End of the Pier’.  Thirty-two years down the line the thrill of Paracetamol Paralysis is finally wearing thin and, although it was an inspired reading, the cover of Boy’s Cry on ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ was not an essential addition, so, although the other twelve songs on that debut have lost none of their attraction through the years, it’s already apparent that all twelve songs on ‘The End of the Pier’ are going to last the course.  Too Late to Change follows the same pattern as When It Was Mine, but is one of those songs that does take time to reveal all of its charms.  Initially it’s Perrin’s lyrics that capture the attention but over time the nagging melody proves to be one of the most rewarding on ‘The End Of The Pier’, even though it’s not one of the most instantly appealing.

Torabi’s bass opens The Summer I Met You in fine style and drives the song along throughout.  Finney’s vocals will yet again have you shaking your head in disbelief that this guy is not regarded more highly as a vocalist.  The following ballad, Man Of The Moment, is Halliwell’s second solo composition which again sounds like it was written by Perrin.  The way that Halliwell has effortlessly slipped into The Distractions is remarkable.  It’s not a criticism to say that he hasn’t, on this showing, added to The Distractions sound but he has embraced it and become part of it which is a harder thing to do. 

‘The End of the Pier’ is a perfect album.  ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ is only now getting the acclaim it deserved all those years ago.  It would be a crime if this follow-up suffered the same fate.  Of course there are many 30 year old albums that still sound fresh today.  There are albums that are almost 50 years old that still hold their own today, but look at the artists who made them.  Most of them are household names who have had years of praise heaped on their work.  It’s time The Distractions received the acclaim they so rightly deserve; when it comes to intelligent, tuneful pop music that is going to be around forever no band does it better.

Magazine Articles 

Distractions: Interview (July 2012) - Malcolm Carter

Profile: Distractions (February 2011) - Malcolm Carter 

Distractions: Interview (January 2011) - Malcolm Carter 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Record Collector interview

As well as Mark Brend's 4-star review of The End Of The Pier, September's Record Collector also contained an interview with Steve Perrin, which we're pleased to reproduce here:

Steve Perrin, The Distractions. (c) Neil Storey.

The Distractions

The Distractions have returned with The End Of The Pier, via Occultation, and RC asked guitar punk Steve Perrin to tell us more.

It's our second album after a 32-year gap!  It's the midlife crisis album, after the confused young person one, and before the deathbed confession album.

If you could revist Nobody's Perfect, what would you change?

I could re-record all the songs at a slower tempo, but that would make it less of a document of the times (1980).

Is there anything still unreleased?

Neil Storey from Hidden Masters is overseeing a retrospective 2-CD and he's unearthed loads of live and studio stull I'd either forgotten or didn't know about.  Most of it's a lot better than I would have expected.

Have you done anything fans may not know about?

I once whistled on the B-side of a novelty record!

What album did you think was the best ever when you started out?

Velvet Underground's third.

What was your favourite record shop then?

HMV and Virgin in Manchester, before the went corporate.  Dark, scummy places staffed by record obsessives.  Derek from HMV refused to stock anything he didn't like!  Virgin burned joss sticks.

Did you write songs under the influence of any substances?

Vodka would grease the wheels occasionally.

What's the last album you bought?

Serge Gainsbourg, Aux Arms Etcetera LP.

The first?

The Beatles, A Hard Day's Night.

Is there anyone in your family who was a musician?

Both my grandfathers played cornet in brass bands.

What's the oddest circumstance in which you've had inspiration for a song?

Mike (Finney) and I wrote Valerie on the way back from the off-license.

What'd you ask you music hero?

Scott Walker: Fancy a drink?

Did you ever collect the music of anyone?

Scott Walker.

Who would you answer questions about on Mastermind?

The Cramps.

Who would you like to cover one of your songs?

Willie Nelson, When It Was Mine.

Which two songs would you most like to hear as a mash-up?

Kraftwerk Autobahn, James Brown Sex Machine.

What backstage incident makes you laugh the most?

We were supporting Adam & The Ants at Factory in Manchester before they became pop stars.  I went to put my guitar in the dressing-room and there was a little chubby bloke wearing eyeliner and glasses, perusing the Daily Mail.  On the way out, I raninto Steve Forster, who was promoting the gig.  "You've met Adam, then?"  No.  "But he's in the dressing room."  No he's not.  There's a little cubby bloke reading the Daily Mail.  "Er, that's Adam."

What facts about you may surprise fans?

I spend an inordinate amount of time walking a springer spaniel.

Who would you do in karaoke?

Bobby Darin, Beyond The Sea.

If you were running an ice-cream van, what would it play?

George Formby's Why Don't Women Like Me?

Who would you most like to record with?

The Magnetic Fields.  I'm hoping for a backing vocal slot on the forthcoming Granite Shore album.

What unfulfilled ambitions do you have?  

To duet with Amylou Harris while Bill frissel plays guitar.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A bit of Rock & Roll history

Another review of the Friday night gig back in late August, this one from Bob Osborne, Music Coordinator at Salford City Radio, at his Aural Delights blog.  

The New Olympians

So here we are again... upstairs at The Kings Arms... drinking beer and talking nonsense.

However there is something slightly different this time, the great and the good of the '80s Manchester scene appear to have congregated on this warmish Friday night (with intermittent showers) – so we have a couple of "Things", a "Hamster", a postman called "Jon", a couple of "Mutts" and a "Kit B" and that’s just within listening distance.  Davey Hammond has come from Thetford as well – but disappointingly he has not brought his smelly flowerpot with him.  The object of all this attention is The Distractions who are back together performing live for the first time in 30+ years in support of a new album called "The End of the Pier" (which I must get round to reviewing at some point).

Tonight is a show put on by Occultation Records and three of their roster are performing... [read the June Brides and Factory Star reviews here].

I position myself stage left for The Distractions – I want to catch this in all its glory.  It's a bit of Rock and Roll history and it deserves some attention.  The legendary Mike Kellie is on drums (Spooky Tooth, The Only Ones) and looks in pretty fine fettle for a chap in his mid-'60s.  Label boss, Nick Halliwell, is stage left and June Brides bassist, Arash Torabi (who gets the honorary Chris Dutton [Factory Star bassist] badge for doing two sets in an evening in two different bands), is stage right.  The centre of attention is the two original members of the band Steve Perrin and Mike Finney.  I readily admit to coming to the band late in my life – I have been given a potted history by my chum and fellow DJ, Stephen Doyle, and having had a review copy of the new album I am fully aware of their work.  

Mike Finney in 1979 and 2012 (c) Nick Barber at flickr (right).

What all of that recorded sound doesn't prepare you for is the experience of hearing Mike Finney's voice live – it is one of those great voices – deep, resonant and full of emotion.  We get quite a few songs from the new album, and couple of oldies, but I begin to glance nervously at my watch as 11pm approaches – the band is around three quarters of their way through the set – maybe they have got a dispensation, as it's Friday night, from the dreaded 11pm curfew at the Kings.  But no – the sound man comes over and  says "three minutes".  Notwithstanding the disappointment of an early conclusion there are sufficient high points in the set to make this a memorable experience – "Waiting for Lorraine" from "Nobody's Perfect" gets a very warm response – and "The Summer I Met You" from the new album strikes me as being particularly fine.

Apparently on the following night the band got to do a full set.

Will we see its like again?  One would hope so, but with Steve Perrin being in the Antipodes there are some specific organisational barriers to get round.

Altogether a very pleasant evening in fine company with some excellent music.  Well done to Nick Halliwell et al for making it happen.

Bob Osborne

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Distractions on the radio

Steve Perrin was on Stephen Doyle's Sonic Diary show on Salford City Radio last night.  Playing his favourite tunes, as well as Distractions classics, SP chats to SD about early influences, the group and the new album.

You can listen to Part 1 here

Part 2 is here:

Stephen Doyle is a great supporter of The Distractions, and features the group regularly on his Noize Annoize and SD's Sonic Diary shows on Salford City Radio.  Both are essential listening for music fans with discerning tastes, like so many of SCR's shows.  It goes without saying that SD was at both Kings Arms gigs in Salford recently...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sad songs; happy tunes

Here's David Quantick's sterling review of The End Of The Pier in this month's Uncut (which may have got 100 Times and Boots mixed up in press): 

 The End Of The Pier


That’s 32 years between albums… but worth the wait

We’re running out of time” are the first, perhaps apt words sung on the first Distractions album since Nobody’s Perfect (1980).  But if great pop is made of sad songs set to happy tunes, The Distractions are still a perfect pop group; while there’s melancholy in abundance, there’s also thunder in “The Summer I Met You”, glorious melody on “100 Times”, and even country soul on “Boots”.  Singer Mike Finney and guitarist Steve Perrin sound fresh-minted on songs informed by years of experience; which may be why, in the powerfully honest “Wise”, they’ve made the best song about a long-standing friendship/musical partnership I’ve ever heard.


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