Spotlight Album Review #8

Reviewed on this page:

The Distractions were a quintet from Manchester, England who recorded only one full-length album during their original existence. That 1980 album, Nobody's Perfect, has long been out of print. The band split up in 1981, after the album failed to achieve much success. Their commercial failure wasn't caused by a lack of effort. Their small body of work demonstrated that these new-wavers were avid students of music history, and they skillfully applied their knowledge to their own remarkable music. The U.K. label Hidden Masters plans to issue a box set titled Age + Geography in 2019, which may include a CD reissue of the long-lost Nobody's Perfect. And...singer Mike Finney and guitarist Steve Perrin have occasionally reunited to form new Distractions lineups, one of which released a mature, refined studio album called The End of the Pier in 2012. For the lucky few of us who are familiar with the Distractions, this was the realization of an impossible dream. In May 2017, Finney and Perrin issued a third Distractions album, Kindly Leave The Stage, which they said would be the last. However, yet another new Distractions lineup featuring Finney and original drummer Alex Sidebottom has been performing live in the U.K., and new studio material is forthcoming.

Before recording their full-length album, the Distractions released the single "Time Goes By So Slow" and a 4-song EP in the U.K. The 1978 EP, titled You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That, already showed that they did not intend to limit themselves to the usual new wave sounds. These four songs (one of which, "Nothing", was remade for the album) show influences including Elvis Costello, early Kinks, early Byrds (singer Mike Finney sounds uncannily like Gene Clark on this EP), and dashes of surf-rock and psychedelia. And this was just a rough warm-up for the album to come.

Nobody's Perfect is easy to identify as a new wave album of its time. "Paracetamol Paralysis" and "Valerie" are punk gems; "Waiting For Lorraine" and "Untitled" have the punk attitude, if not necessarily its ethos. But the Distractions took an educated approach to new wave without over-intellectualizing it, as Nobody's Perfect draws inspiration from all three decades of rock and roll that preceded it. The band emulated everyone from Buddy Holly ("Wonder Girl", "Still It Doesn't Ring") to Phil Spector girl groups ("Boys Cry", "Looking For A Ghost") to Elvis Costello ("Something For The Weekend") and the Talking Heads ("Sick And Tired"). The wistful "Leave You To Dream" sounds like the Cars interpreting the third Velvet Underground album. Finney's sincere and sometimes somber vocals give many of the songs unexpected emotional depth. A unique and eclectic album from an intelligent and sophisticated band, Nobody's Perfect is truly one of rock's lost treasures.

Track Listings:


1. Doesn't Bother Me
2. Nothing
3. Maybe It's Love
4. Too Young


1. Waiting For Lorraine
2. Something For The Weekend
3. Boys Cry
4. Sick And Tired
5. Leave You To Dream
6. Louise
7. Paracetamol Paralysis
8. (Stuck In A) Fantasy
9. Nothing
10. Wonder Girl
11. Still It Doesn't Ring
12. Untitled
13. Looking For A Ghost
14. Valerie

After Nobody’s Perfect proved to be a commercial failure, the Distractions were dropped from Island Records, reportedly in favor of a promising young Irish band called U2. Original guitarist Steve Perrin left the band, and was replaced by ex-Ludus guitarist Arthur Kadmon. The Distractions were on their last legs, but they did record one more EP titled And Then There’s… This 3-song, 7-inch EP was distributed independently by Rough Trade in 1981.

On this EP, hints of ska and reggae were added to the Distractions’ ‘60’s-influenced pop. The guitar and drums exude island-style rhythms, as do the horns on the Kadmon-penned “Ghost Of A Chance”. Although the songs are still not exactly uplifting, they have a less melancholy tone than the songs on the album, with slightly quicker tempos and less sadness suggested in Mike Finney’s vocals. In fact, it’s hard to tell for sure if “Love Is Not For Me” is meant to be sad or funny, as it takes the point of view of a man afraid to enter a relationship for fear of experiencing real emotions. “Ghost Of A Chance” describes a fear of rejection without sounding quite as hopeless as its lyrics. And the A-side track, “Twenty Four Hours”, actually sounds quite hopeful, if not necessarily confident, that romance may be in store for its main character. How would a full-length album by this Distractions lineup have turned out? Alas, we’ll never know.

Track Listing:

a. Twenty Four Hours
b1. Ghost Of A Chance
b2. Love Is Not For Me

An official Distractions website created in 2010


Other Spotlight Album Reviews:

#1: Sigur Ros - "Von" (1997)

#2: Various Artists - "Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea" (1981)

#3: Gerry Goffin - "It Ain't Exactly Entertainment" (1973)

#4: Graces - "Perfect View" (1989)

#5: Genesis - "Calling All Stations" (1997)

#6: hindu love gods (1990)

#7: Various Artists - "Message To Love: The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970" (1996)

#9: Deconstruction (1994)

#10: Juicy Groove - "First Taste" (1978)

#11: Emmylou Harris - "Gliding Bird" (1969)

#12: Various Artists - "Beyond The Wildwood: A Tribute To Syd Barrett" (1987)

#13: Candy - "Whatever Happened To Fun..." (1985)

#14: RTZ - "Return To Zero" (1991)

#15: Klark Kent - "Kollected Works" (1995)

#16: Various Artists - "Rainy Day" (1984)

#17: Alex Chilton - "1970" (1996)

#18: Feist - "Monarch Lay Your Jewelled Head Down" (1999)

#19: Attila (1970)

#20: Slipknot - "Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat." (1996)

#21: Eyes Adrift (2002)

#22: Stoney and Meatloaf (1971)

#23: Elliott Murphy - "Aquashow" (1973)

#24: Evanescence - "Origin" (2000)