Song of the day – 473: The Distractions
I’ve been meaning to write about this album for a while. You see, it’s not nothing to me. A new Distractions album (the only other one came out in 1980, and it helped my lovelorn self survive two summers and the heat beyond). There’s no call for it to be good, to be anything other than a renewal of old bonds, a reiteration of the faith, a whisper of the past. And in many senses it is. And in many senses maybe that’s all it is. But maybe that’s enough for my fragile 51-year-old self, that it’s no use pretending this music doesn’t hold power over me, a power that is all the stronger because of the drip-feed of familiarity. I don’t want to lose my fondness for the new, the thrill of the chase – Peel alone knows I don’t want to lose that – but should I always be moving on? Do I always have to? This new Distractions album is only their second in 32 years, and like the first is the least cutting of disappointments after the brace of singles that preceded it. This new Distractions album is so obviously, immediately The Distractions. I only saw them play live once – they were long-distance magic for me when young, and because of that I can welcome them back into my life again (as opposed to June Brides who I saw any number of times and hence can’t bear the thought of them reforming all grown apart and separate to myself). Yet how can it be, after 32 years, that these chiming plangent guitars and melancholy hope of Mike Finney’s voice are so recognisable? What are the chances of that? You could point to the slow-burning fuse of emotion that tapers and underpins each song. But how’s this not a nostalgia trip?
It’s like they sing on ‘Boots’, “Who’d have thought that coming back would be so hard?”
It’s like Sarah Jane said to the Doctor: “You never said goodbye”.
Maybe this is my chance. No, it’s not that. (Shakes his head impatiently.)
In the months since I was sent an advance promo of End Of The Pier, it’s found its way onto my iTunes playlist several times – shy and unannounced like a former drunkard of a friend – and each time, I stop what I’m doing momentarily and listen, surprised, caught unawares again, wanting more, wistful, wishing that I could stop this relentless chase, this thrill of the new when no one nears me gives a fucking second glance at what I do. The music I make this days, when I make it, is clearly me: this hesitation, this clumsy renewal with the heart of pop music serves The Distractions well, very well.
This isn’t from the album. This is ‘Lost’ from the ‘Come Home’ EP, released in 2010.
I’m stumbling here. I know within my heart that I wouldn’t listen to this album more than once if I didn’t know The Distractions already but that’s not the point, is it? I do know The Distractions already and, because I do, their already poignant music is imbued with additional poignancy – because they too are reflecting and stumbling and hesitating and looking back on life that never, never turns out like you’d expect – and it’s stupid and false to pretend otherwise. I keep wanting to raise the water container to my lips, but it keeps remaining empty. The mirror confuses the fuck out of me too. This dead skin. All this useless dead skin. What’s that all about? Listen too closely and the magic begins to dissipate – how can it be otherwise when it’s an echo, a shimmering reflection? Move away for a few moments, though and the magic comes flooding back in. How can that be? What magic is this, as Professor Quirrell once yelped. Does it matter if it’s a reflection, an echo, when it affects me this deeply?
This isn’t from the album either. This is an old song, re-recorded in 1995, the first Distractions recordings in 15 years.
I have nothing from the album – called End Of The Pier, due out in August – to play you. Instead, you can find the album here.
This is an old song. A favourite. I can hear what you’re thinking, lonesome and lovelorn Collapse Board reader. You’re thinking is the new album really as great as this? No of course it fucking isn’t. It is – as Au Pairs once sang – equal but different. It resonates. It bewitches. It contains subtle magic, so subtle I can’t even begin to spot the glass. The song that would be my Song of the Day is called ‘The Last Song’. I like last songs.
P.S. Here’s the capsule review for Pitchfork readers
cult late 70s mcr band returns with a melancholia de force of an album, their 2nd in 32 years
one for fans of Zoo Records, Cats On Fire, Wild Swans, Royal Headache