Client ‘Authority’ (Out Of Line)

After a four-year gap and a line-up change that reunites old friends, Client serve up a fresh batch of kinky synthpop

‘Authority’ starts with a news monologue that states, “The prime goal of government is to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority…” 

After four albums, including two released by Mute Records via Andy Fletcher’s Toast Hawaii imprint, and a hiatus of four years since the departure of original vocalist Client B (Dubstar’s Sarah Blackwood), the UK’s premier fetish electronica outfit are back, albeit in a rebooted format. Client 2.0 features a new singer, Client N, or Nicole Thomas to her friends. They’ve also recruited Xan Tyler for live work, which is something of a reunion as Tyler and Client A, or Kate Holmes to her hubby, former Creation label boss Alan McGee, were previously a duo known as Technique.

‘Authority’ is Client’s fifth long-player and it’s been hailed as a return to the group’s roots in minimal electronic pop music, when they attracted fans as diverse as Karl Bartos, Martin Gore, Robert Görl, Carl Barât and Pete Doherty. Certainly, the first single from the album, released last year, didn’t disappoint. Dynamic and clubby, ‘You Can Dance’ reflects on the chemical reliance associated with clubland and even manages to sound like Frida fronting Fad Gadget. Better still was the second single, ‘Refuge’, with Client A’s surreal, Cold War disco essence complemented by Client N’s vocals, which are reminiscent of Ladytron’s Helen Marnie.

The album’s remaining 10 tracks all possess the hard-edged yet danceable synthesised template that has been Client’s trademark over the years. The title cut begins like a routine europop tune but mutates into a discordant chorus for something quite unusual, while the gated melodies and vibrant synthbass of ‘Obsession’ and the electro power rock of ‘Design’ continue the sub-Ladytron vibe. A big surprise comes from the hi-NRG cowbells on ‘XXX Action’, although the end result is more of a distorted rhythmical groove than an actual song.

Producer David Francolini (of Levitation and Dragons fame) does a good job of fusing minimal electronics and post-punk gloom, as on the Siouxsie-goes-electro snarl of ‘Quarantine’, and takes risks on the nine-minute ‘Nocturnal Eyes’. Imagine Joanne and Susanne of The Human League going all prog synth. As Client morphed from a group called Technique, it’s unsurprising that some enjoyable New Order influences continue to linger, particularly on ‘After Effect’ and ‘Faith’. In another nod to their past, the electro boogie-woogie shuffle that is ‘Artificial’ sounds like it could have come from one of their earlier long-players, as does the pretty beat ballad ‘The Shining Path’. 

Long-time fans may dismiss ‘Authority’ as not being Client. That’s not correct. This is Client and the manifesto remains the same, but like a government entering its second term, there’s been a cabinet reshuffle. And for those who miss the presence of Client B, there’s always her vocal contributions to ‘Justice’ and ‘Beautiful’ on Fotonovela’s recent ‘A Ton Of Love’ album.

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