The Distractions "Kindly Leave The Stage" and "Go Dark" (2017)
The Distractions were an unjustly overlooked band from Manchester, England, who recorded only one full-length album, 1980's Nobody's Perfect, during their original run. They broke up in 1981 after failing to achieve commercial success, but there have been a number of Distractions reunions in recent years, featuring original singer Mike Finney and original guitarist Steve Perrin. A new lineup released a second Distractions album, titled The End Of The Pier, in 2012 -- 32 years after the debut album. And now, the Distractions are about to issue their third -- and, they say, final -- album, titled Kindly Leave The Stage, on May 12, 2017.
Although the album’s official release date is two months away, the album can be pre-ordered from the Occultation Recordings website. Some of the packages offered also include a 10-inch vinyl EP called Go Dark, which is limited to 250 copies. There might still be time to obtain one!
Kindly Leave The Stage was recorded over the course of three days in September of 2015. It was produced by Nick Halliwell, the head of Occultation Recordings, who also played guitar. The rhythm section consisted of Arash Torabi from Granite Shore on bass, and Ian Henderson from The Puddle on drums.
Kindly Leave The Stage lies in the same basic mellow pop vein as The End Of The Pier, but is even more laid back, suggesting that Finney and Perrin had mellowed even further with age during the few years in between. The first two tracks (“A Few Miles More” and “Last To Leave”) have just a minimum of adult-alternative vigor. The rest of the tracks have a mostly understated tone, a middle ground between American country music and indie pop. The instrumentation moves at a relaxed and deliberate pace for most of the album. Aside from one striking side trip into baroque pop territory (“Wake Up And Kiss Me Goodbye”), most of the songs are of a melancholy nature, which has always been the Distractions' forte. But where vocalist Mike Finney once came across like a heartbroken young man, he now seems to sing from the point of view of an older man who has lived and learned, and who now realizes that heartaches will eventually pass. On songs such as “The Fire” and “Nowhere”, Finney sounds calmly accepting of the fact that passion fades away over time. The latter song possibly alludes to one of the early Distractions singles, with the lyrics: “I know we used to think that time went by too slow, Now there’s nothing left to do and there’s nowhere left to go”. Finney comes on like a moody Johnny Cash on “The Connection’s Dropped Again”, whose title sounds like a modern variation on “Still It Doesn’t Ring”. The overall tone of the album does support the claim that it is meant to be the Distractions' swan song, but it is not an overly emotional goodbye. Rather, it is painted as a sad but expected part of life. When the opening track contains a line like “I haven’t felt like this since Elvis Presley died”, it would suggest that Finney and Perrin certainly do hate to see the Distractions come to its final end, but they seem grateful to have been given the opportunity to issue a proper farewell. True to its title, Kindly Leave The Stage serves as a quiet and graceful exit.
Go Dark is a 10-inch vinyl-only EP limited to 250 copies, sold only through internet orders by Occultation and the New Zealand label Fishrider Records. The three songs on Side A are Kindly Leave The Stage outtakes, recorded in September 2015. Surprisingly, those three tracks sound quite reminiscent of the original Distractions. In fact, “Nothing Lasts” was written by original member Adrian Wright, shortly before the band’s 1981 dissolution; it has a throbbing bass line that gives it a new-wave-like tension, and it brings out some of the old emotional intensity in Finney’s singing. Finney shows some of that same zest in the 18-string version of “Last To Leave”, which has a faster tempo and a fuller, more jangly guitar sound than the version on the album. An even bigger surprise comes when Perrin takes the lead vocal on the moody ‘60’s-style ballad “Skin”; he doesn’t have Finney’s soul, but Perrin’s crooning does have a haunting quality of its own.
The three songs on Side B are acoustic renditions of songs from The End Of The Pier, recorded in June 2011 by Finney, Perrin, and Halliwell. Former Spooky Tooth drummer Mike Kellie (who passed away this past January) played a bodhrán on “Too Late To Change”, giving this rendition a distinct Celtic flavor. The acoustic version of “Girl Of The Year” is equally as effective as the album version at conveying the loneliness of the title character. “Wise”, which was written by Halliwell, is sung as a duet between Finney and Perrin, making them sound like gently bickering bandmates.
If you’ve been wishing that the newer Distractions material sounded a little more like the older stuff, then the Go Dark EP may be just what you're looking for.
The Distractions "Kindly Leave The Stage" (Occultation YMIR7E1050) 2017
1. A Few Miles More (Perrin)
2. Last To Leave (Perrin)
3. Talking To Myself (Perrin)
4. What The Night Does (Halliwell)
5. The Fire (Perrin/Halliwell)
6. Wake Up And Kiss me Goodbye (Perrin/Halliwell)
7. Nowhere (Perrin)
8. The Connection's Dropped Again (Halliwell)
9. Tell Them I'm Not Here (Perrin)
10. The End Of The Pier (Halliwell)
The Distractions "Go Dark" EP (Occultation YMIR7E1051) 2017
1. Last To Leave (18-string version)
2. Nothing Lasts
4. Too Late To Change (acoustic)
5. Girl Of The Year (acoustic)
6. Wise (acoustic)