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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Leaving them wanting more

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Leaving them wanting more... much more
The Distractions - Kindly Leave The Stage

J. Fennessy, 14 September 2017 

It hardly seems fair that this is the last Distractions album. After all, there have only been three of them since the first one came out in 1980. But if there is any truth in that old showbiz adage about leaving them wanting more, this is the album to go out with. Many long-time fans may find it hard to believe but this may just be a better all-round long-player than that much-loved first album "Nobody's Perfect".

When the Distractions released their also excellent second album "End of The Pier" in 2012, veteran fans were overjoyed and there was even talk of a re-release of Nobody's (criminally no longer available) and a career-long retrospective with rare tracks. The feeling of optimism was boosted by songs of the quality of "Wise", "Boots", "100 Times" and "Girl of the Year". The classic combination of Mike Finney vocals and Steve Perrin on guitar was enhanced by Nick Halliwell in particular - the band was hot and the future looked bright. It is not quite clear what has happened since and it is very sad that this is their last album, particularly because the whole band are on top form on this record.

Those expecting brash and noisy punk singalongs will be surprised by this album if they did not buy the last one, as there is nothing like the faster tracks (e.g. Paracetamol Paralysis) on "Nobody's Perfect" on this album. The mood is closer to that of classic slower songs from that album like "Stuck In A Fantasy" or "Still It Doesn't Ring". Mike Finney's soulful, emotion-drenched vocals are as striking as ever as he rings every ounce of passion from these songs of loss, regret, love and defiance. You can hear every word - none of that posey rock star snarling or slurring - and the words are well worth hearing because these are a great set of lyrics. It would be tedious to quote examples because there are so many good lines to choose from and you really need to hear them in context to get the full effect.

Steve Perrin and Nick Halliwell are superb throughout on guitar on their own compositions, which are catchy and melodic in the Marr/Morrissey mode. The bass guitar is also a constant brooding presence and I have not been so aware of such a gently probing bass sound on a new record for years. Musically, this band do not make a false step and you will find these songs nagging away at you for days afterwards - a good sign in my book. Also worth noting are the superb backing vocals, which enhance the atmosphere carefully created by Mike's precise singing. The only thing I find slightly irritating is the brief band comments between songs - maybe one or two quips would have been okay but I think they overdid it here - sorry, guys!

Like quoting lyrics, it seems wrong to single out songs because this album works so well because it is a cohesive whole and the songs complement each other. "Kindly Leave The Stage" demands to be listened all the way through and then, as we used to do in the old vinyl days before CDs, stuck back on the turntable and played again. However, I have to draw attention to the first track "A Few Miles More" - a storming, brilliant opener that you really have to hear. If there was a Distractions Greatest Songs album, this would be on it along with early singles like "Time Goes By So Slow" and "Doesn't Bother Me" (Incidentally, if anyone from The Distractions is reading, if there ever is a re-release of "Nobody's Perfect" I would love to see these two tracks added to the playlist of the original album!) Finney's voice soars confidently into the stratosphere on this song and the guitars are upfront too, joining him in the heavens. And that bass, there is always that bass!

Also worthy of mention is the song "Nowhere" which neatly looks back at the band's past with a sly reference to "Time Goes By So Slow" in the lyric. "Wake Up and Kiss Me Goodbye" is a positive song amongst all the plaintive wordplay on this CD, a simple but touching expression of love. And the final song "The End of The Pier" not only harkens back to the second album of that name but also brings the whole record and, perhaps, the whole career to a fitting conclusion. You can almost hear the curtain fall.

Cue applause. End credits.

But, guys, you surely, surely cannot call it a day after such a great record. The "Bring Back The Distractions" campaign starts here!!

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