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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Dark horses

Not long to go now until definitive news of the 'Parabolically Yours' book set. A cornerstone of this set, will be, of course, the terrific 1980 debut album on Island. 'Nobody's Perfect' (not 'The Distractions'!) was reviewed by Mike Nicholls in Record Mirror on 3rd May 1980, and here's what he had to say (4/5 stars).

THE DISTRACTIONS: 'The Distractions' (Island 1LPS 9604)

LOVE - OR lack of it - is in the air and joining the likes of The Undertones, with songs about girls and more girls, are the irresistible Distractions, a group who only recently have been collecting the pundits they've been worthy of these past three years.

Habituees of their live performances may initially be shaken by the powerful production gloss, but overall there are no worries.

For the uninitiated, The Distractions incorporate a wide range of influences from fifties innocence through classic sixties pop to late seventies experimentalism, but this is no Nick Lowe hack job.

Studio mentors Phil Chapman and John Astley (whose track record includes Clapton, Armatrading and 'Who's Next') have seen to that and blended the ingredients with Cordon Bleu delicacy. Proof of the pudding is in the inspired difference between the two types of songs: The simple yet subtle "pop" tunes and more fully blown production numbers which emphasise what dark horses the band are.

Into the appealing first category go such titles as 'Waiting For Lorraine', a heartfelt affair whose hard luck angle comes with guitars growling in sympathy with Mike Finney's excellent moaning vocals. The lyrics are as succinct as some of those from Pete Shelley, particularly the conclusion which is an absolute killer. 

Another definitive song is the new single, Eden Kane's 'Boys Cry' which seems custom-built for Finney and which rather than being given a too-clever-by-half nouveau treatment, sounds more vintage than ever with Alec's drums high in the Spectorish mix.

'Nothing' is a new, improved version of their 'You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That' oldie but one or two others are below par. The ideas are there but songs like 'Paracetamol Paralysis' and hitherto personal stage fave 'Still It Doesn't Ring' don't go anywhere further than their fine tunes and hooks.

Maybe I'm expecting too much, or just plain spoilt by some of the more realised hi-tech epics like 'Sick And Tired'. Opening with a synthesiser motif lifted straight from Kraftwerk, The Distractions metamorphosise into a different band with tears substituted by anger.

'Stuck In A Fantasy' features more good guitar from the boys, Perrin and Wright, but the twin pieces de resistance are 'Leave You To Dream' and 'Looking For A Ghost'. With Finney at his most note-perfect and some gently rising keyboards and Platters-style harmonies, both are near blueprints for what sophisticated pop music should be all about: direct, classy and with undeniable quality that makes it memorable yet unpredictable. The Distractions are stalking up to that goal and have the potential to define the post-teen pulse. A confident first album, not flawless, but fab nonetheless.

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(c) Mike Nicholls, Record Mirror, 1980.

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