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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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Friday, August 18, 2017

A band you love beyond all reason

A few months ago David Quantick wrote about "his band", The Distractions, in his first Record Collector column. I think there's a few of us out that think the same of this wonderful group...


The debut of our new columnist David Quantick

I don't know if you have a band that you love beyond all reason. I'm sure you do. Mine is The Distractions, a Manchester group who emerged during punk with a melodic genius, a way with wry lyrics and, in Mike Finney, the great blue-eyed soul voice of its day. The Distractions, who had great singles like Time Goes By So Slow and It Doesn't Bother Me, always sound to me like Buzzcocks on Mowtown, and I love their sole album from the time, 'Nobody's Perfect'.

They also wrote, but never recorded, a beautiful, sad and powerful song called Nothing Lasts, which you can't get anywhere. When they re-formed a few years back to make their second album ('The End Of The Pier', only 32 years after their debut), I asked them about Nothing Lasts. They made polite noises, but it was from the end of their early career and it seemed they didn't really want to talk about it. (Mike did find me an old live recording of it, which was wonderful.)

One night I went to see The Distractions in Salford, where they were playing two nights at Paul Heaton's pub, The King's Arms. They were brilliant, the years falling off them like leaves from a mighty oak. And then Mike introduced a song, and Steve said, "This one's for our friend Dave," and they played Nothing Lasts. And I could barely hear it for the tears. So that was all right.

The Distractions' third and final album, 'Kindly Leave The Stage', is out on Occultation Recordings on 12 May 2007.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A musical legacy - their finest moment

Here's a long and lovely review of 'Kindly Leave The Stage' by Malcolm Carter at Penny Black Music. Both Malcolm and Penny Black are long-time supporters of The Distractions, and their wonderful online fanzine comes highly recommended (sign up here).

The Distractions - Kindly Leave the Stage

Occultation Recordings, 2017 

Malcolm Carter 

“I know we used to think that time went by too slow/Now there’s nothing left to do and there’s nowhere left to go”. 

It’s not unusual to interpret lyrics differently than the way they were intended by the artist. But lines like the above, taken from ‘Nowhere’, on The Distractions' third album, ‘Kindly Leave The Stage’, are crying out to be deciphered in a way other than composer Steve Perrin had in mind. 

Most of the Manchester band’s songs deal with matters of the heart, in their own particular way. Many long time fans will smile or find themselves welling up at the closing lines of ‘Nowhere’ (even if it was tongue in cheek). Especially as this album is being touted as the last The Distractions will ever make. The point is that The Distractions do have somewhere to go; their new songs better even those on their classic debut from 1980. 

It took The Distractions some 32 years to follow up ‘Nobody’s Perfect’; a brace of warmly received EPs and a change in line-up resulted in 2012’s ‘End Of The Pier': ten original songs in which original Distractions vocalist Mike Finney and guitarist and main songwriter Steve Perrin were joined by The Granite Shore’s Nick Halliwell (who produced the set), Mike Kellie on drums, Arash Torabi (June Brides and The Granite Shore) on bass and Nick Garside on keyboards. Halliwell’s understanding and love of The Distractions earlier work resulted in possibly the best track on ‘End Of The Pier’, the melancholy ‘Wise’, which was surely inspired by the demise of the original Distractions. We noted at the time that ‘End Of The Pier’ was like the older brother of ‘Nobody’s Perfect’; that punky edginess had diminished. That said, Mike Finney’s soulful vocals had aged well and sounded even more expressive on the new album. 

Five years later, and Finney, Perrin, Halliwell and Torabi are back this time with Ian Henderson (The Puddle) on drums. The legendary Mike Kellie sadly passed away in January of this year and was too ill to take part in these recordings, (this writer can still just about remember, as a very young teen, seeing Mike play as part of Spooky Tooth, R.I.P. Mike). 

Because Steve Perrin now resides in New Zealand, it’s more than likely that the claims that this will be The Distractions swansong will be proven to be true. Mike Finney is currently playing some gigs with original Distractions drummer Alex Sidebottom, but as for new recordings, this looks like the end. 

The guitar sound that Halliwell, as producer, captured on ‘The End Of The Pier’ is prevalent here, and the bass is forward in the mix again. There are times when the bass is the focal instrument, ‘Last To Leave’ being a prime example. You find yourself following the bass line long before Finney’s longing vocals (and those heavenly backing vocals) come in. 

While none of the tracks speed along like ‘(Stuck In A) Fantasy’ from their debut, everything that made and still makes The Distractions so important shines through. The melodies that both Perrin and Halliwell craft are addictive, and lyrically both writers express affairs of the heart in a way that is distinctively their own. Halliwell’s production is perfect; the way the backing vocals are recorded is a work of art itself. The choir of ghosts that repeat the line“image from a half forgotten dream” on ‘Talking To Myself’ is a fine example of the care and love that has been put into this project. 

Although in many ways ‘Kindly Leave The Stage’ is a natural continuation of the work The Distractions did on ‘The End Of The Pier’, it appears to be a more resigned collection of songs and performances than those they presented five years ago. The knowledge that this is the final time they will record together obviously informs this album. 

Where there was once frustration in Finney’s soulful interpretations of Perrin’s lyrics, there now sits the wisdom that comes with age. Finney is still one of our most underrated singers, time has not dimmed the emotion in his vocals, the opposite has happened; he’s even more convincing now. Without underplaying the input from drummer Henderson and, as touched upon earlier, bassist Torabi lends so much to the overall sound of the album the combination of Finney, Perrin and Halliwell is one made in musical heaven. 

While not even their biggest fans would have expected The Distractions to ever recapture the edgy pop that made ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ so special, the mere fact that the principal players got together 30 years later and made a brilliant second album that took their music to another level (helped in no small part by Halliwell) was more than we could have hoped for. ‘The End Of The Pier’ matches their debut song for song, so to declare ‘Kindly Leave The Stage’ as the best Distractions album is a bold statement. But it is. 

We’ve not had the chance to live with these songs for 35 years, or even the five years for which ‘The End Of The Pier’ has been a part of our lives, but in just a few weeks this latest collection of songs, despite the sadness that hangs over it, has shown itself to be an album of solid, intelligent pop music that will last the test of time. When two talents such as Perrin and Halliwell get together and produce songs of the calibre of ‘Wake Up And Kiss Me Goodbye’ (complete with brass from Probyn Gregory), we can’t help but think what the results would have been if The Distractions stayed together as a band and made further recordings with this line-up. 

The darkest song on the album, ‘The Connection’s Dropped Again’, a Halliwell song, shows once again how Finney’s vocals have matured; it’s a spine-chilling performance and the song allows the band a chance to experiment a little; imagine if there was more of this to come. 

The gentle ‘Tell Them I’m Not Here’ is the last Perrin contribution on the album. Again, the lyrics can be taken a number of ways; a letter to a lost love or a goodbye to band members? Finney turns in one of his best ever vocal performances, and those heavenly backing vocals again add so much to the song. 

The album ends with a Halliwell song, ‘The End Of The Pier’; more appropriate here than on the album it shares a name with. Perrin also uses those words in his preceding song; it appears that the band want to hammer the message home that this will definitely be the last Distractions album. But there’s also the feeling that there’s some regret felt. Again, the lyrics can be taken as directed at a failed relationship or the break-up of a band; it’s a lovely, understated performance and a perfect way to end the album. 

As usual with Occultation Recordings releases the album is beautifully presented and available in a number of options. There is a 10” vinyl mini-LP limited to just 250 copies bundled with some copies of ‘Kindly Leave The Stage’ and only available on the Occultation website (http://www.occultation.co.uk) and through the New Zealand label Fishrider Records which features six songs unavailable elsewhere. Three are acoustic versions of songs that appeared on the ‘The End Of The Pier’ album; one of which, ‘Too Late To Change’, features Mike Kellie on bodhran, the last recording he ever made with the band. 

The other three songs are outtakes from ‘Kindly Leave The Stage’; an 18-string version of ‘Last To Leave’, a Steve Perrin lead vocal on his song ‘Skin’ and most surprisingly, a track written by original Distraction Adrian Wright titled ‘Nothing Lasts’. At the time of writing, this mini-album wasn’t available to listen to, but the acoustic version of ‘Wise’ has been up on YouTube for a week or two. 

It’s sad that The Distractions have chosen this time to leave us; ‘Kindly Leave The Stage’ is their finest moment, but they’ve left a musical legacy that few bands will ever match. 

Track Listing: 

01) A few Miles more 
02) Last to leave 
03) Talking to myself 
04) What the Night does 
05) The Fire 
06) Wake up and kiss me goodbye 
07) Nowhere 
08) The Connection's dropped again 
09) Tell them I'm not here 
10) The End of the Pier 

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