• Distractions
  • You're Not Going Out Dressed Like That EP7 (UK TJM) 1978 
  • Nobody's Perfect (UK Island) 1980 

Decades from now, rock historians will scratch their heads in bewilderment that the Distractions’ fine body of work didn’t ensure the Manchester quintet a longer initial lifespan. (A return to activity in 2010 has resulted in an official website as well as the release of a few new and old recordings.) The 1979 EP (which contains rougher versions of two songs that would later turn up on Nobody’s Perfect, plus a live pair — “Too Young” and “Maybe It’s Love” — unavailable elsewhere) hints that the group was working from an abnormally broad palette, a sense confirmed by its one fine album.

A lot of records belong to a specific time, but Nobody’s Perfect continues to measure up as an ace slab of educated pop rock, right in tune with the ground rules laid down by Blondie, Squeeze and others of that ilk. Part of the problem may be that Nobody’s Perfect is too weighty to be passed off as a simple diversion. The band’s eclecticism draws on everything from Chuck Berry to Phil Spector to psychedelia — often within the same song — and the vocals tend to be more somber than carefree. “Boys Cry” comes on like a Ronettes tune but delivers none of the upbeat emotional release seasoned pop listeners are trained to expect. Regardless, Nobody’s Perfect very nearly is.

[Deborah Sprague / Jon Young]