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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Out of time

Last months' Penny Black Music magazine had an interview with The Distractions' Mike Finney, Steve Perrin, Nick Halliwell, and HiddenMasters chief, Neil Storey.  The chaps discussed the 'Parabolically Yours' PledgeMusic campaign with Malcolm Carter, and this is Malcolm's lovely introduction.

The Distractions: Interview
Author: Malcolm Carter
Published: 08/12/2014

Alex Sidebottom, Adrian Wright, Steve Perrin, Pip Nicholls, Mike Finney. 
(c) Adrian Boot (www.urbanimage.tv).

The news that fans of '80s band The Distractions have been waiting what seems like an eternity to hear finally came through; PledgeMusic started in early December their campaign for ‘Parabolically Yours’, a box set put together by Hidden Masters, the company responsible for going more than that extra mile when compiling box sets of music that should never be allowed to fade away.

This shouldn’t be personal but it is. We all have those albums that will forever mean just that little bit more than the others for a million and one different reasons. When ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, The Distractions’ debut album, came along in 1980 it sounded out of time. It looked back to a rich musical past while not sounding dated, yet at the same time it fashioned the music of the future. It was, simply, like nothing else around at that time.

The albums that had sound-tracked and shaped my life up to that point, ‘Pet Sounds’, ‘Odgens’ Nut Gone Flake’, ‘The Who Sell Out’ (to name just a few) now had some new company. ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ was as important to me as that Beach Boys classic, it didn’t just define a certain period of my life, I knew, even then, that it was going to stay with me forever.

Over fourteen songs the band touched on every emotion I’d ever felt not just in the lyrics but also in the wonderful rush of music that they clothed their songs in. The urgency of ‘Valerie’ doesn’t just make me feel like a teenager again; it confirms that I’ve never been anything else. ‘Looking for a Ghost’ is still the most hauntingly beautiful yet chilling song about lost love (maybe) I’ve ever heard. It still, thirty-four years after first hearing the song, sends shivers down my spine. The Distractions wrote lyrics that those whose hearts had been broken could identify with but they had a unique way of doing it. Was Mike Finney imagining the whole thing in ‘Looking for a Ghost’? Who knows, but it’s unsettling how this guy, still one of our most underrated soul singers, can turn our darkest feelings into something so scarily beautiful. There isn’t a dud song on the album, even the only cover version on the album, that this writer remembers spending his paper round money on (Eden Kane’s ‘Boys Cry’ on Fontana) somehow worked even if it did seem an unlikely choice at the time.

I hardly ever lent albums out then but ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ I just had to because I knew that, even after that glorious single on Factory and the wonderful ‘You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That’ EP, that preceded it and even with the positive press the band were receiving, I just had to get this music heard. I wish now I hadn’t because my copy of ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ is the most worn album I now own. It’s almost unplayable. And if everyone who loved the album had bought their own copy instead of wearing mine out maybe The Distractions would have had more success and stayed around a little longer.

But now, with the Pledge campaign underway, it seems like I’m going to have the chance to replace not only that album but also all the singles and EPs that the band released too.

The Distractions story didn’t end back in the eighties, although for a long while it seemed that we’d heard the last of them. ‘The End of the Pier’, a 2012 set of new songs that followed a couple of EPs of new material proved that mainstays Steve Perrin and Mike Finney had lost none of the magic that made the original band so special. In Nick Halliwell the guys had found a kindred spirit; Halliwell’s production, playing and writing confirmed he was the perfect choice to breathe life into this band again. ‘Wise’, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, is but one of the songs written by Halliwell for the album and which captures the sound and spirit of the original band perfectly.

Hidden Masters haven’t taken the easy route and just reissued ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ with a few choice bonus tracks. Although we’re still uncertain exactly what will, or will not, make it to the final track selection, one thing is certain; it will be created with the care, love and passion that all Hidden Masters releases have so far been afforded. What has been confirmed is that there will be three CDs and a 12” vinyl album all housed in a book which will cover the band’s early days, and which will take us up to ‘The End of the Pier’ and maybe even beyond.

We tried to find a little more about the Pledge campaign and what pledgers can expect from Distractions Mike Finney, Steve Perrin and Nick Halliwell. Neil Storey, founder of Hidden Masters, also had a few things to say too which make for interesting reading not for just those who have already pledged but those who are still need a little convincing. And, if the music itself and what promises to be the box set of 2015 still don’t have you reaching for your credit card, then check out www.pledgemusic.com/projects/thedistractions and enjoy Steve Perrin’s and Mike Finney’s hilarious video updates on ‘Parabolically Yours’. 


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