Friday, August 31, 2012

The Distractions "The End of the Pier" (2012)

The Distractions were an overlooked Manchester band who broke up in the early ‘80’s after releasing only one full-length album called Nobody’s Perfect. They have recently reformed, and have finally issued their second full-length album – 32 years after their first. The End of the Pier was recorded in June 2011 by a lineup consisting of original vocalist Mike Finney, original guitarist Steve Perrin, keyboardist Nick Garside (who was a part of the band’s short-lived mid-‘90’s lineup), guitarist Nick Halliwell (who played on the 2010 EP Come Home), bassist Arash Torabi, and drummer Mike Kellie. The album was released this week in the U.K. on the Occultation label, and the CD will be available as an import from Amazon.com next week. The mp3 download can be purchased now.

The music on The End of the Pier is surprisingly mellow and understated. After the band gets some lingering new wave intensity out of their system on the lead-off track “I Don’t Have Time”, they tone things down to achieve a gently melancholic pop sound. The End of the Pier does not quite match the emotional poignancy of the Nobody’s Perfect album, nor does it deliver the same concentrated cogency as the more recent Black Velvet and Come Home EPs. It probably wasn’t meant to do either. Finney and Perrin do not pretend to be young men anymore on this album. Both musically and lyrically, they come across as former new wavers who have grown up over the past three decades. Finney’s vocals still have power, especially when he reaches down deep on “When It Was Mine”. However, he does not communicate the same sense of emotional anguish as he did in the past. He no longer sings like a young man who feels like his feelings of longing and heartbreak will never subside; now he comes across more like an older and wiser man who has learned how to cope with such feelings. Some of the songs (“Boots”, “The Summer I Met You”, “100 Times”) do echo the new wave aesthetic of the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, but they substitute mature refinement in place of youthful tension. “Girl of the Year” and “The Last Song” (not the Edward Bear tune, although it does bear some lyrical resemblance to it) are reminiscent of more old-fashioned pop music. Although it is still clear that Finney and Perrin appreciate a wide range of musical styles, they mainly aim for simplicity on The End of the Pier. Halliwell (who also produced the album) fits into the Distractions very well. His compositions “Wise” and “Man of the Moment” stand out as intelligently constructed ballads.

The Distractions’ earlier work has held up well over time; it’s hard to predict how The End of the Pier will be regarded years from now. Then again, the band was probably not concerned about that. The Distractions who recorded this album were not naïve young men trying to please record executives or hoping to become the next big thing. This version of the Distractions merely seemed to be aiming to create a fine, respectable album, and at that, they have succeeded.


The Distractions - The End of the Pier

The Distractions “The End of the Pier” (Occultation YMIR7DC017) 2012

Track Listing:

1. I Don’t Have Time -- (Perrin)
2. Wise -- (Halliwell)
3. Girl of the Year -- (Perrin)
4. Boots -- (Perrin/Halliwell)
5. When It Was Mine -- (Perrin)
6. Too Late To Change -- (Perrin)
7. The Summer I Met You -- (Perrin)
8. Man of the Moment -- (Halliwell)
9. 100 Times -- (Perrin)
10. The Last Song -- (Perrin/Halliwell)

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