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Sunday, 6 September 2009

I Thought You Were Dead...

First of all, once again I do apologise for the long silence, but we're currently working hard on the second Granite Shore single and then more records after that. More news about this in the coming weeks. The new single will be Flood of fortune to be released on 7" vinyl on Occultation early in the New Year.


Now, to the matter in hand: last year I wrote a piece on The Distractions. One or two people got in touch to say how much they'd also loved the band and... well, that was that for the time being.


Then a couple of months ago a comment was left on that particular page from Mike Finney, the band's lead singer, intriguingly mentioning some demos he and chief songwriter Steve Perrin had recorded in 1995 and that he'd be happy to send them to me. Only he said he wasn't sure how to do so and would check the blog again for a message. I immediately posted one asking him to e-mail me and then... Nothing. I thought he must've forgotten all about this and resigned myself to missing out on the chance to hear these demos. Then finally, a few weeks later, out of the blue I got an e-mail from Mike to which he'd attached five songs.


Now we all know that generally speaking bands shouldn't reform. 10 years ago I'd've said this was pretty much a rule with hardly any exceptions. However now we know better, don't we? Look at third incarnation of The Wild Swans (who, incidentally, will be releasing a new single on Occultation over the next couple of months, I've heard it and it's another absolute corker, but more of that another time...) if proof be needed. Apparently Mike, Steve and some chums got together and played a few gigs in the North-West and then went into the studio. Some of the songs here were originally written for the Distractions first time around and performed by later incarnations live.


What you really want to know, though, is this: are they any good? Well, as Mike has given me permission to upload the tracks here, you can judge for yourselves. For my money the first of them, Black Velvet is among the very finest things in the Distractions canon. It's unusual in that it's roughly twice the length of anything else they ever did but it is absolutely stunning. It has that apparent simplicity which is the hallmark of all the band's work, even though it actually takes a great deal of subtlety to get anything sounding that simple. Mike remains one of the all-time great pop voices, there's something about his singing that sends shivers up and down my spine. The lyric is very much in the classic Distractions tradition too. As Mike says, this is perhaps the logical extension of a track like Looking For A Ghost; and it reminds you just how special this band were, how different from their contemporaries. As a result their records have barely dated at all, and even though these demos were recorded 15 years later they fit seamlessly into the canon.


Although Black Velvet is the clear standout, the other four are also pretty terrific; they're much more similar to earlier Distractions in that they're short and oh so sweet. None of these would've sounded at all out of place on Nobody's Perfect. I'm also extremely fond of Good Girls Don't Get To Paris, but all five songs here are terrific.
It really is positively criminal that the Distractions' oeuvre has yet to be reissued, with the exception of their classic Factory single, Time Goes By So Slow which has appeared on a number of compilation albums. Major record companies... Grrr....


Anyway, here are the five tracks which I've converted to MP3 for maximum compatibility. I'll try and write more pieces on this blog over the next few weeks and months.


The Distractions: 1995 demos (MP3)

Black Velvet

Where Were You When I Needed You?

Good Girls Don't Get To Paris

I Thought You Were Dead Josephine

The Land Of Opportunity

Thanks to Mike Finney and Steve Perrin for letting us hear these.

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