A decade ago this week saw the release of the first of two excellent albums (followed by two other albums) by the brilliant Client. The duo formed when Technique fell apart mid-tour, with the vocalist replaced by Sarah Blackwood formerly of Dubstar, and they found an excellent style for themselves, in military outfits and labelled Client A and Client B, and with brilliantly leading artwork. Signed by Andrew Fletcher to the Toast Hawaii label, an offshoot of Mute, they flirted with success for several years before deciding, as it turned out incorrectly, that they could do just as well without a record label.
The first Client album Client opens with the title track Client, which was also the first single Client. A popular trend among groups around this time was to ensure that you had a song that set out the band’s manifesto, and this is pretty much as close as you can get. It’s dirty, at times unpleasant to listen to, full of weird stylised lyrics, and totally brilliant.
Better from a melodic point of view is Rock and Roll Machine, the second proper single, which is also one of the strongest tracks on the album. Client B‘s vocal style on this album is slightly unusual and forceful, almost aggressive, rather than traditionally melodic, but when combined with the dark synth sounds it works extremely well.
First proper single Price of Love follows, and is totally brilliant, driven by an octave bass line, and sounding like some kind of forgotten eighties masterpiece remixed by a spotty genius to bring it into the modern age. Listening to it now I’m almost disappointed that this is ten years old already. Again, the lyrics are strangely styled (“What’s the price of love got to do with love?”) but work really well when delivered by Client B alongside the deep and dark electronics.
Next up is Happy, with its brilliant lyric “I’m happy / She’s happy / So why the flip are you not happy?” (I may have censored that slightly.) As with the opening track Client, it’s a bold statement, which works extremely well.
Something of a surprise, and another of the best tracks on the album, is Diary of an 18 Year Old Boy. Having been an 18 year old boy, I suppose I identify a bit with some of the lyrics, but it also contains a wonderful retro synth pad line which gives it a truly excellent sound. Civilian follows, a little largely instrumental piece which is rather less special, mainly consisting of noisy synth noises, but it is at least helping to hammer home the concept of the album.
The first track of the second half is Here and Now, which was also their third proper single, and is probably the best track on the album. Like Price of Love, it’s one of the closest things to a traditional pop song, which is probably why it’s so great, but somehow the pads, vocals and slightly discordant piano come together to create something truly fantastic. The single versions are admittedly better, with slightly more accentuated synth lines, but this is still quite brilliant.
The rest of the second half of the album is generally less special, starting with the one really low point on the album, the rather pointless Sugar Candy Kisses, which neither says anything particular nor adds anything special to the package. But at least it drives onward fairly pleasantly, and for an album to only have one track that weak is impressive to say the least.
Pills lifts things somewhat, although it’s not as strong as some of the tracks on the first half, and Leipzig is, despite a fantastic bass part, nothing to write home about (so I won’t). Then the last proper track is Love All Night, which struggles a little lyrically, but is otherwise back to the standard of the first bunch. Then, after a bit of silence, Side B actually closes with what I think of as Civilian (Part 2), a secret bonus reprise which we’ll keep between ourselves.
I can only think that what happened in their latter years was that they diluted their “product” (to use their terminology) by releasing less exciting material, because this album is pretty much perfect in every way. Even when it’s not so good, the music is at least making a valid point, and the same is true of their second album City. The artwork is brilliant, the whole concept is perfect. What they did wrong was to keep releasing stuff. I’d suggest we just pretend that they only ever made two albums, and leave it at that.
You can find Client on iTunes here, or at all the other normal places.