The Whiskey
West Hollywood, California, May 1995.

Music from the Middle of the (well-worn) Road.
Live Review by Jon Dunmore © 11 May 1995.

Look up "compromise" in the dictionary - you'll see a picture of Bobby Bognar & The Distractions. Look up "marketability" and you'll see a picture of Bobby laughing all the way to the bank.

Here was a band whose major good point was their sole bad point. As with any band that becomes Top 40 fodder, as soon as a major company invests in the Distractions, they'll have hit after hit of unmemorable yet catchy tunes - but until the vehicle of MTV makes them appear less sedentary with camera angles, good lighting and scantily-clad females, they'll never go up or down in the live excitement stakes, just sideways. That is, this is as good as a band like this gets.

Now you may ask yourself: just what is my stance on this band? That's just the point - I'm sitting on a fence, like they are. They're as marketable as sliced bread, but in order to get that way, you've really got to sell your soul and integrity to the devil, or at least one of his little evil helpers.

All pagan ceremonies aside, The Distractions are a proficient rock and roll band, but there's nothing about them that is really all that interesting. (Maybe Bobby just didn't drink enough goat's blood at that sabbatical?)

Bognar cites his musical influences as Elvis Costello, John Lennon, The Lemonheads; although live, the Distractions sound like... well, everyone. From The Beatles to Nirvana. Like Lennon & McCartney, Bognar is very lucky in that the music he loves to write and play also happens to be very saleable. Pure Radio Friendly Mainstream. Unlike Lennon & McCartney, Bognar fortunately has not got two other wanna-be musicians in his band who just came along for the ride - Yell McGuire on bass and Garner Knutson on drums complete the talented trio.

There's something very classic about a three-piece rock band: black Les Paul, bass and drums. There's also something very classic about all three band members on vocals. There's even some kind of inherent classic overtones in the name "The Distractions," which conjures images of The Temptations and that ilk - the Distractions enhance that aspect by appearing onstage in suits.

Bognar's reasons for wearing a headset microphone are obscure. Used by dancers like Madonna and showmen like Bowie for the freedom it affords lead vocalists, Bognar wasted its utility by moving around an area of no more than four square feet onstage, all the while looking like he was trying to find his contact lens by stepping on it. There's just something classic about moving up to a mic on a stand and belting out vocals. Call me a traditionalist, call me pedantic, call me archaic - just call me...

The crowd were generally appreciative of the three-minute ditties that made up the Distrations' set: Jennifer, Christi-Ann, One Track Mind, Michael Antony, all of which blended into one after four songs. Bobby introduced each song, so I knew they were playing different ones; they just seemed to avoid the gray matter in my brain quite effectively.

The band's appeal is to a demographic too young to get into pubs to see them: the 9 - 15 year old pre-pubescents who never knew records existed; who never knew David Coverdale was born with brown hair; who think the Stones are a great new band and who have to buy Bobby's independently-released CD not with their wages, but with their allowance.


Added: 2006, Mar 2