New Distractions "Time And Time Again" EP (2023)

The Distractions were a new wave band from Manchester, England who recorded only one full-length album -- 1980's Nobody's Perfect -- during their original existence. The band folded in 1981 after being dropped by Island Records in favor of U2. But two of its founding members, singer Mike Finney and guitarist Steve Perrin, would occasionally perform and eventually record with different lineups of the Distractions. Surprisingly, the Distractions began to issue new recordings in the 2010's, long after the unjustly overlooked band seemed destined to be forgotten forever. After two EP's were released in 2010 (one of which, Black Velvet, had been recorded in 1995), Finney and Perrin went on to record two full-length Distractions albums: The End Of The Pier (2012) and Kindly Leave The Stage (2017), both of which showed that the former new wavers had mellowed with age, and apparently felt no need to aim for commercial success by that time in their lives.

Finney and Perrin parted musical ways in 2017, but then a new lineup of the Distractions formed shortly afterward, reuniting Finney with original drummer Alec Sidebottom. Another key player in the new Distractions -- who, in fact, call themselves the New Distractions -- is bass player Joe Brehony, who played in another U.K. post-punk band called The Things. Brehony wrote three of the four tracks on the New Distractions' 2023 EP Time And Time Again. The quintet is rounded out by guitarists Chris Dutton (who played in a recent lineup of the Blue Orchids) and Graham Battersby.

Remarkably, the sound of the New Distractions is more reminiscent of the early Distractions than the 2010's version of the band was. The four tracks on Time And Time Again recall U.K. power pop from the new wave era, with a sheen of modern refinement. A decade earlier, Finney exuded mellow maturity when he was reunited with Perrin. But on his new recordings with the New Distractions, he comes across a bit more like his younger self, almost like an actor whose features have been de-aged for a movie with CGI effects. On the title track, Finney seems to be playing the part of a younger man dealing with romantic dissatisfaction. One song, “Nothing Lasts”, is a song which was written by original Distractions member Adrian Wright shortly before the band’s 1981 dissolution; its instrumentation here gives it a sort of grown-up post-punk tension, and it spurs Finney on to singing with an almost reckless type of emotional intensity. And yet, the more mature Finney is also present here. On "Juliet", he sounds as though he may be trying to talk sense into a younger -- though not necessarily young -- woman about her misguided relationships. And when he reminisces about the romantic beginnings of a relationship on "The Gardens At Midnight", he sounds like he could be thinking back to a very long-ago time. Fortunately, the New Distractions seem to help Finney stay in touch with his younger musical self without sacrificing the wisdom of his age. More, please.

Also in 2023, the Manchester-based label Campion Records issued a four-song EP by the original Distractions on digital formats. These four tracks were early demo versions of songs which would later be rerecorded in 1979 and 1980, and all four of the demo tracks were included on the 2-CD reissue of Nobody's Perfect in 2020. These tracks were recorded on September 18, 1978, before the band began to record for the Factory label in the U.K.

The first track, "Pillow Fight", was later rerecorded as the B-side of the band's 1979 Factory single "Time Goes By So Slow". The Original Campion E.P. demo version is better, as it more clearly shows an early-'60's surf-rock influence which makes the song more thrilling. The other three tracks were later rerecorded for Nobody's Perfect. The demo of "Sick And Tired" has a surprising Velvet Underground-like guitar sound. The demo of "Still It Doesn't Ring" has an earthy emotional ache which suggests a country music influence -- something that became even more noticeable when the song was rerecorded yet again by a different Distractions lineup in 1995 (that version would turn up on the 2010 EP Black Velvet). Finally, we hear the fast-and-furious demo of the punk song "Valerie"; in its raw form, which runs for just one minute and 17 seconds, the song comes on like a sped-up rockabilly tune that would do the Clash proud. The Original Campion E.P. 1978 is something to hear; personally, I recommend hearing it as part of the expanded edition of Nobody's Perfect.

New Distractions - Time and Time Again

New Distractions "Time And Time Again" EP (TJM ND1001) 2023

Track Listing:

1. Time and Time Again -- (Brehony)
2. Juliet -- (Brehony)
3. The Gardens At Midnight -- (Brehony)
4. Nothing Lasts -- (Wright)

The Distractions "The Original Campion E.P. 1978" (Campion) 2023

Track Listing:

1. Pillow Fight
2. Sick and Tired
3. Still It Doesn't Ring
4. Valerie