What does it sound like?:
I’d better make it clear right from the start that there is just no way for me to be completely objective about this album but I’ll do my best in light of this 2020 reissue
For anyone for whom the name doesn’t mean much, the potted history is as follows: late 70’s five Mancunians all around 20, move in similar circles with Barney and co. from Joy Division but in a band making music very different to them. Quickly became the next big thing in all the music press, released a couple of singles then, most importantly, “Time Goes By So Slow” on Factory but then signed by Island (the same day as U2, possibly) and this album, the first and only album, released by them. Dropped by Island for poor sales of the album, released another EP but then split up. The band did get back together over 30 years later and have since released two further albums but they’ve made no pretence to try and recreate the music of their first stab and they’re very different albums, which is to their credit in my view.
Nobody’s Perfect was only ever released on vinyl (apart from a cassette version of which literally around five copies still remain) but fans of the album have been clamouring for a CD release for years. The band wanted to do this but Universal, for some reason, would not release the rights (even now they won’t allow a digital release) and at least one attempt to crowdfund a release was thwarted. Finally, about 18 months ago with the help of Occultation and Man in the Moon Records some sort of deal was done and it started to look like it really might happen this time and now here we are.
You can see the full details of what’s included here, but the headlines are:
• CD 1 has the full album, remastered but otherwise left alone. Also has the pre-album and post-album singles
• CD2 has some unreleased demos, the “You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That” EP, the Factory single and the whole album again, but remixed by Nick Halliwell (who is in the current band).
In short, everything they released in their first phase, some of it twice.
Light another cigarette and act like it’s cool
To stand in the rain and be somebody’s fool
The biggest draw for me was a remastered copy of the album as the original mastering was dull and left everything just a bit fuzzy at times. The new master doesn’t disappoint and it’s fantastic to hear the tracks clear and clean. The strengths of the band at the time were the song writing and Mike Finney’s voice and the CD allows both elements to shine through. It’s staggering to me that this band couldn’t get a hit record in 1980 as every track has hit written on it to these ears (even allowing for my having listened countless time over the last 40 years). There’s only one cover version – Eden Kane’s “Boys Cry” but it doesn’t stand out as you might expect, simply because all the tracks are that good. There is no filler on this album. There’s also a huge range of styles here. They were poppy one minute and post-punk the next but never, ever without a great tune.
“Time Goes By So Slow” is a classic and, interestingly, sat next to their other work, you can hear the Factory influence. The demos are also useful in seeing the development of several of the songs and, arguably, the best version of “Sick And Tired” is actually the demo – much more powerful and guitar driven, which suits it.
The other part I think fans have been holding their breath for is the full remix. I have to say that comparing the tracks side by side doesn’t conclusively produce a winner. In general, the remix adds bass (which WAS lacking from the original although the remastering helps there) and puts Mike Finney’s vocals a bit further upfront. It also strips away some of the sheen that the original production added, presumably to enhance the hit potential, in terms of some reverb and some added instrumentation and effects. All this does help some of the tracks, especially the more guitar-driven stuff, but it doesn’t work on everything. I think I’ll be sticking with the cleaner original. It also (and I hate to say this as it doesn’t spoil the enjoyment of the album or this project one jot) does highlight a little more that, as players, this was band at the start of their careers, not seasoned musicians. We all have to start somewhere!
Maybe it will help you see
Why nobody talks to me
What does it all *mean*?
History of course is full of bands that really should’ve been huge and weren’t so, all that being said, why were The Distractions not as big as U2 (OK, but you know what I mean!)? Impossible to tell, of course, but I wonder if, despite the great songs and hummable melodies, the album is perhaps just too eclectic for the mainstream. There is a huge range of styles on this album – the last two tracks alone swinging from the ethereal beauty of “Looking For A Ghost” to the out and out thrash of “Valerie” (a style of song, by the way, that a band like The Vaccines produced an entire album of, if not two). Perhaps the great unwashed just couldn’t get their heads around those sorts of changes all on the same album? I think Mike Finney has one of the great voices but it’s not in your classic popstar range and certainly not by comparison to some of the other voices and bands who are beginning to come through and having hit singles around this time. Mind you, Dexy’s had a huge hit with Geno in 1980, so perhaps not. Maybe in the end they just weren’t photogenic enough – who knows?
Whatever the reason, you can’t help feeling that it was the rest of the world’s loss that they never continued on but Nobody’s Perfect is that rare thing, the diamond ring that somebody lost into a bin bag that turns up years later just needing a quick polish and it’s back to all its glory.
Goes well with…
40 years of great
March 2020 – but available now from Occultation Records
Might suit people who like…