Power pop meets punk

A reminder of a recent local gig, as The Distractions live band gear up for more outings next month, first in York on 18th October then Salford on 25th. By then we should have more definitive news of the Nobody's  Perfect reissue which really is shaping up to be something special...

The Distractions: The Spinning Top, Stockport – live review

30 July 2017 

Spinning Top is a pub on the lower side of Wellington Road just down from the train station in Stockport town centre. Bar on the right, stage on the left and the loveliest staff you’re ever likely to meet. It’s standing room only for The Distractions who are playing in the town for the first time since 1979. Nigel Carr reports back for Louder Than War.

Support is the super talented and frankly hilarious Peter Egriega [previously known as the former Distraction, Arthur Kadmon]. He brings us a short set of what can only be described as life tales, sung in a variety of styles backed by just a hand slapped box and double bass. Songs full of heart and pathos – ‘I knew your father before he was a knob’ and the one about Dogging in Alderley Edge. He’s a rare talent with a big heart and I couldn’t help but warm to his big smile and rough-ass delivery! A very British Seasick Steve but way funnier. 

The Distractions burst on to the Manchester music scene in 1979 with their first release, the 12” ‘You’re Not Going Out Like That’ EP on TJM Records. Tony Davidson who ran the label also owned the famous rehearsal studios on Little Peter Street opposite what became The Hacienda. Joy Division, V2, Buzzcocks and many other nascent Manchester outfits used to rehearse there. There is a famous photograph of Joy Division taken in one of the rooms by Kevin Cummings, now immortalised in a ten feet high freeze at the True Faith exhibition at The Manchester Art Gallery. The Distractions went through a number of line-up changes in their short career, even signing to Island Records in 1980, before imploding in 1981. What they left behind was a stunning body of work; a vastly underrated collection of jaunty power pop meets punk ditties. Similar in vein to Buzzcocks – Pete Shelley once famously admitted to copying their la la style backing vocals. (According to the Ramones T Shirt wearing man on the door anyway!)

Original members, lead singer Mike Finney and drummer Alex Sidebottom are joined tonight by a new touring band. The perfectly crafted garage meets punk 'Something For The Weekend' gives way to lead singer’s favourite '(Stuck In A) Fantasy' and there is nothing but big smiles and appreciation around the room. It’s an older audience of course, most remember the band from the first time around. There is an increasing punk intensity as the gig progresses; highlight 'Waiting For Lorraine' ends with the line "Waiting for Lorraine to drop dead" as Finney slams his arms across his chest. He even drops into a little shimmy on down during ‘It Doesn’t Bother Me’! “The single was released by Island on white 12” vinyl to coincide with the Christmas market, only the label messed up and it didn’t come out until April!”

Finney plays the perfect front man, self-deprecating and humble and these wonderful songs still ring in my ears as I leave to catch the train home. Proper memorable pop-punk with great hooks & harmonies with searing guitar licks underpinned by Sidebottom’s incredible drumming. It’s a shame that today’s younger gig goers who are clamouring for fresh post-punk don’t latch on to some of the finer bands that existed back in the day. Nearly forty years on and The Distractions are as good as ever, sounding tight, vibrant and fresh. If you get the chance go and see them – I’ll be there in Preston on November 10th – I hope you are too!


The Distractions are:

Mike Finney - Vocals
Alex Sidebottom – Drums
Joe Brehony – Bass
Jonny Poole – Guitar
Chris Dutton – Guitar

Classic punk-pop in London

Here's a fine review from The Distractions' triumphant return to London in January 2018. It appeared in issue 447 of Record Collector magazine courtesy of Paul Welsby.

27TH JANUARY, 2018

View: standing, front.

After last year’s final album, 'Kindly Leave The Stage', The Distractions’ frontman Mike Finney made the left-field decision to put together a new version of the band to revisit their late-'70s post-punk oeuvre. Joined by ‘classic’ line-up drummer Alex Sidebottom, plus new guitarists Chris Dutton and Johnny Poole, and bassist Joe Brehoney, 2017 saw the band play several gigs around hometown Manchester. 

Finney greeted London for the first time in 30-odd years with a self-deprecating “lock up your grandmas,” and it was classic punk-pop all the way. Despite critical plaudits for their new material, there was no room for it in the set, the gig leaning heavily on 1980’s 'Nobody’s Perfect'. Even sedate songs such as Leave You To Dream were given a rattling overhaul. The Distractions’ secret weapon was always Finney’s soulful voice, and the intervening years have rendered it even more potent, no more noticeable than on the sole ballad, the beautiful Looking For A Ghost. The set closed with the raucous Valerie and the Velvets’ Sweet Jane. Now that’s what I call punk. 

Reviewed by Paul Welsby

Nobody's Perfect reissue

We are pleased and excited to announce that plans are now in place for the, ahem, long-awaited reissue - on vinyl LP and its CD debut - of The Distractions' debut album, Nobody's Perfect, originally released by Island Records in May 1980. 

Whilst full details are yet to be confirmed, we can reveal that the plan is for the album to be reissued by Man In The Moon Records, the label established by former Island man, Nick 'The Captain' Stewart. It was, of course, Nick who signed The Distractions to Island from Tony Wilson's Factory Records, almost 40 years ago.

More details on tracks and timings will follow in due course, so please check in on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news on this eagerly anticipated release. We've had a couple of false stats with the Parabolically Yours and Age+Geography sets, which just couldn't work out, so here's to third time lucky...

Also, keep your eyes and ears open for even more exciting news regarding a new Distractions release from what until now has been the live band...

Live in 2019!

We are pleased to confirm some upcoming gigs in the northwest.

Friday 5th April, Spinning Top, Stockport (The Distractions + Same As It Ever Woz + The Awkwards)

Saturday 11th May, London Road Inn, Buxton (The Distractions + support)

Saturday 8th June, Peer Hat, Manchester (Jon The Postman tribute evening: The Distractions + The Sandells + Harvey's Rabbit)


Here's the second part of the piece in Torn Apart: The Life of Ian Curtis, by Mick Middles and Lindsay Reade. The first part is here.

"Ian was always extremely open and agreeable with me," says Finney. "When we played with Joy Division he absolutely went out of his way to seek me out and talk about the two bands. It seemed natural at first, because that's how I always knew him. Then, slowly, I started to realise that perhaps he wasn't like that with everyone. I also noticed that the rest of Joy Division, while always being perfectly OK with us, were also a little way because we were very much a live band. I am not saying for one minute that we were on the same planet as them in terms of sheer talent... we weren't. We were a dance, pop soul band who liked to get up on stage and lighten up the crowd."

"He once... it could have been at Leigh... I am not sure... but he once went on on about "Time Goes By So Slow". He wanted to know when it was written. Had it been written immediately after a break up? Was it written in a state of despair, I suppose that, looking back, you could look too deeply into that. My theory is that he was just discovering that song-writing could be cathartic. I don't know if that was ever the point with Joy Division but I did sense that that was what he was thinking. I knew nothing about his private life. I don't remember meeting Deborah and, frankly, The Distractions were a sexual and emotional minefield at the time. I think Ian wanted to know how we dealt with all that. I don't know, frankly. But there was a kind of link between us."

(C) Mick Middles & Lindsay Reade.

A welcome refuge

After last week's lovely return to the Salford Arms (pics and video to follow), the band are having a mid-summer rest, until more gigs in August (Bury) and September (Camden).

For something a bit different, here's the first part of a nice little piece in Torn Apart: The Life of Ian Curtis, by Mick Middles and Lindsay Reade.

The link between The Distractions, who performed early on the Leigh bill, and Joy Division is worthy of a mention. Although only fleetingly a Factory band, with one albeit great single, "Time Goes By So Slow", the connection between the two bands was forged on a series of dates during which the lightness of their pop songs perfectly balanced Joy Division's dark introversion. Inspired by these gigs, Paul Morley once claimed: "If Joy Division are the perfect rock band for the Eighties, The Distractions are the perfect pop band". Intriguingly, while the remainder of Joy Division shied away from the hip core who surrounded The Distractions (who have been largely written out of their considerable central role in the Manchester scene), Ian Curtis warmed to Mike Finney, whose cheery bonhomie may have seemed a welcome refuge.

(C) Mick Middles & Lindsay Reade.

Salford 1st June

Tickets are £8 in advance or the same price on the night at The Kings Arms, Bloom Street, Salford (just off Deansgate near Salford Central station). See you there!

Dublin Castle review at 'Louder Than War'

We will be bringing you photos, videos and comments of our own from last months' utterly triumphant return to London (after a 37 year wait) at the Dublin Castle.  But before that, please enjoy this lovely review by Ian Canty from the essential post-punk indie website and magazine, Louder Than War (thanks, Ian and Rob!).  You can read the full review, including more pics and comments, here

The Distractions – Dublin Castle, London – Live Review

Written by Ian Canty, 30 January, 2018

The Distractions - Dublin Castle

27th January 2018

The Manchester New Wave/Post Punk Legends make a triumphant return to the London stage after a gap of over 30 years… our man Ian Canty was on hand to witness a stunning display of Perfect Punk Pop……

The Distractions, in their original incarnation, only lasted a brief while in the limelight. Formed in 1975 by Mike Finney and Steve Perrin while still at college, after a major reshuffle two years later with the advent of Punk, they added Pip Nicholls on bass, Alec Sidebottom (drummer in '60s band the Purple Gang of 'Granny Takes A Trip fame') and guitarist/song writer Adrian Wright. This was the classic line-up of the band, which only changed very late on when Ludus guitarist Arthur Kadmon replaced Perrin in 1981 and with Debbie Shure coming in too.

The influence of Punk and particularly their near neighbours Buzzcocks showed. The Buzzers’ success demonstrated that emotions, honestly stated, were not taboo subject matter and their influence was considerable on the newly re-aligned outfit. The Distractions’ strengths lay in writing shrewd and unusual songs with classic Pop tunes, talking about life’s trials in a real way which did not feel forced, a bit like whispered truths in unguarded moments. They were fortunate to possess a great natural singer in Finney and also having the Punky Power Pop musical muscle to back him up.

Early in 1979 they released their first record, the 'You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That' EP on TJM, which showed their rare class, the perfect mid-point between Punk attitude and 1960s craftsmanship. In its own way as flawless a document as 'Spiral Scratch', this EP included what could arguably be their most well-known song in 'It Doesn’t Bother Me'. Tony Wilson was clearly a fan, so their next single, 'Time Goes By So Slow', subsequently appeared in September 1979 on the Factory label. It was another stone cold classic and I know it is unlikely that this single influenced The Smiths, but it is feasible if you listen to it, with similar great guitar lines and elegant delivery. This record might just be the best thing Factory ever put out. With this run of form it was inevitable that the majors would come knocking on their door.

So indeed they did and The Distractions signed their names on a contract for Chris Blackwell’s Island label around the time the Factory single appeared. This should have been the prelude to them going onto chart success, but for some reason it didn’t happen. Perhaps Island didn’t have a handle on this new-fangled New Wave stuff? Maybe, but a re-recorded take of 'It Doesn’t Bother Me' and the version of Eden Kane’s '60s hit 'Boys Cry' did not make the expected breakthrough. The parent LP 'Nobody’s Perfect' emerged in 1980 and despite critical acclaim and appearances in the music press including Smash Hits and The Face (despite being a pretty much the antithesis of the usual bands featured in those mags) again they missed out on the charts.

After one more single (the cheekily titled 'Something For The Weekend') they were back on an Indie, the That label, for their '24 Hours' EP. Again the reviews were broadly approving, but momentum had been lost and the band ground to a halt in 1981. A few low-key reformations happened in the '90s, but the band began in earnest again in 2010 and since then have issued two more albums, 'End Of The Pier' in 2012 and 2017’s “final” (say it ain’t so?) LP 'Kindly Leave The Stage'. As a live entity they have been revitalised too and when a gig at the Dublin Castle (with a set list that revisited those glory days) was announced I was always going to go along. So I did.

On the night the Wah Wah Club warmed up the crowd well and Kajiki Volt impressed with some novel interpretations of Garage Punk (was one of them in Silverfish?). So that nicely set the stage for The Distractions, who were absolutely stunning. With an excellent new line up featuring Mike and Alex with newcomers Johnny Poole and Chris Dutton on guitars and bass player Joe Brehony (also in The Things) they stormed it, in their own unassuming manner. Starting out of the traps with three songs from that first EP 'Maybe It’s Love', 'Too Young' and 'Nothing', we’re not so much sent back through a time machine to 1980 or whatever, this is just the greatest now, thrilling, fast songs full of heart and soul, Punk but with melody, Power Pop with more grit, more feeling.

Mike Finney is a revelation – still relentlessly anti-fashion, he looks like just an average guy but when he sings… well with some bands you’ve just got a person going through songs, but watching him, he’s singing about life in a way that is so true and clear, perfectly fitting in with the the energy of the band. I think David Quantick said he was perhaps the only Soul singer to come out of Punk, he’s rarely incorrect and spot on in this case. In addition to that The Distractions are a fiery live band, with Alex on drums like a man a fraction of his age and both Johnny and Joe more than play their parts. Chris I’ve seen play with three bands, and they’ve all been brilliant, and he’s right on the money tonight too.

Contradicting their song, time with The Distractions goes by so quickly – they’re one of the few bands that can play something as great as 'It Doesn’t Bother Me' almost midway through the set, when others would have to leave something of its quality back for the encore. 18 songs were played and most all of them are perfect, heart-breaking Pop/Punk. 'Looking For A Ghost' is wonderful, a great change of pace and the Island-period hit that should have been, 'Something For The Weekend', lovely. 'Time Goes By So Slow' is simply beautiful, one of the very best of the era and still a brilliant song today.

There is a shout out of course to Mark E, how could there not be, the man was so well respected. Mike says he helped them, although they are probably the only five people from Manchester who weren’t ever in The Fall, before realising he had miscalculated and Alex might have had a spell behind the kit for them! The crowd (not all older folks as you might be thinking) are totally into it and having a great time and why wouldn’t they be? The smiles on people’s faces are ear to ear.

They finish the main set fittingly with 'Nothing Lasts', but they stay on stage for encore of (their own) Valerie and a nicely chaotic version of the Velvets’ 'Sweet Jane'. I’m late for the train, but I’m going nowhere until they reach the very end. Transfixed, because I am watching a great band on at the very top of their game, all these years on and they are undimmed by time. Simply majestic.

If The Distractions play anywhere near you it is a total no-brainer – the magic they still weave in 2018 might be seem simple on the surface, but rarely is it carried off so well, hugely appealing and full of vim. Go along and you are simply watching masters at work – these opportunities are seldom, so make the very most of them and get yourself along to support one of Manchester’s best kept secrets – you won’t regret a moment of it.

Dublin Castle, Camden gig

Next weekend sees The Distractions live band return to London for the first time in at least 36 years! The band are headlining at the legendary Dublin Castle in Camden next Saturday 27th January, with several other bands providing support for what will be a long and loud night.

More details on The List, and you can buy tickets in advance, saving a couple of quid, from WeGotTickets. The gig starts at 7:30pm, and we'll try to bring you approximate stage times a bit near the time. UPDATE: Distractions about 10pm.

The Distractions

The five-piece outfit from Manchester play post punk originals. With support from Kajiki Volt, Master Thieves and Wah Wah Club.

The Distractions - One of the great lost bands of the New Wave era (Blurt magazine, USA). The Distractions in the late '70s and early '80s were very well known on the post-punk music scene. They released records on the TJM, Factory, Island and Rough Trade labels to excellent reviews, as well as sharing bills with Joy Division, Buzzcocks, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Fall, The Members, Squeeze, and many others. They played all corners of the UK and Ireland as well as doing gigs in New York before splitting up. David Hepworth described their debut album, 'Nobody's Perfect' as, "An enchanting and vaguely disturbing collection of vulnerable pop". Last year two of the original members, vocalist Mike Finney and drummer Alex Sidebottom, got together with some friends after being asked to play at a memorial gig for Manchester punk legend, Jon the Postman. It went down so well they decided to continue as a live act playing their singles as well as songs from the album 'Nobody's Perfect'.

Kajiki Volt - Post punk through a surf guitar- garage punk lens, think a more frenetic Gun Club via Magazine, shades of Gallon Drunk and the sorely missed Penthouse too. Great tunes interesting arrangements, played with conviction. 

Desert Falls - An eminantly danceable melange of of Folk, Klezmer, high life and surf played by an (sort-of) all-star indie-alt cast of  Dom Green (Penny Orchids), and featuring Caz Hellbent (Desperate Journalist, Yeah And She Has Red Lips Too), Jasper Future (Art Brut), Phil Whaite (Penny Orchids, Thee Faction), Tom Harrison (Penny Orchids), Ellie Khan & Shona Macmillan (Rebekah Delgado band), Lucy Morgan & Melissa Reardon (Thee Faction), and Andy Cooper (Cursors). 

Wah Wah Club - Good 'ol indie pop with a high melody quotient hooks a plenty, trace elements of Vaccines but pretty much their own sound, great stuff.

Manchester's best kept secret

Here we have one of the earliest pieces of Distractions history, courtesy of Stuart Murray and Mark Windsor of those other legendary Manchester post-punk groups, Fast Cars and V2. It was in Sounds in late 1978 or early '79, featuring TJM Records, Tony Davidson's famous Manchester label. 

Tony takes up the story. "The advert was in Sounds music paper and it was of the first 5 releases on the TJM label. It was a half-page advert and cost £600 plus VAT. At this stage of the record company it was all systems go, to get as much profile and sales for TJM as possible. Looking back, I was taking the profits from the rehearsal rooms and pouring them into the record label. Many thanks to Stuart Murray for the memory."

You can hear Mike, Alex and The Distractions live band belt out the EP in its entirety (and many more of the late '70s and early '80s classics!) at the live gigs coming in 2018. First stop London, and the Dublin Castle...

announce the inception of a Manchester based Record Company.
The label for the discerning record buyer.

The sound of tomorrow
made for today

35 Little Peter Street
Knott Mill
061 236 2717

Distributors: Virgin Records, Rough Trade, Small Wonder Records, Bonaparte Records, Lightning, Discount Records, Wind-up Records

Watch out for the TJM tour this spring

"Manchester's best kept secret"



"You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That"

4 tracks, Limited edition of 6000

12 inch EP, Availble Feb 1st