Client – Command

I’ve talked before about the rise and fall of Client. Their first album Client (2003) became something of a cult classic, with its glorious lo-fi sounds and subtley fetishist visuals, and follow-up City (2004) was a brilliant, more commercial, follow-up.

They were never going to be hugely successful, but they seemed to think that somehow leaving Mute Records was a good move. Freed from their editorial shackles, they went on to release two more albums – the occasionally good Heartland (2007) and Command, released five years ago this week in 2009, before quietly going their separate ways.

Command kicks off with the lacklustre Your Love is Like Petrol. There’s really very little worth saying about it – compare it with what they were doing a few years earlier, and you just have to accept they became a bit rubbish. Lead single Can You Feel follows, to some degree making up for the opening track. It’s still not even up to the standard of the singles from Heartland, but it’s a lot less bad than the opener.

The intro to Don’t Run Away suggests they might have refreshingly ditched the dirty electronics for a while. They do have a bit of a formula, of noisy, overloaded synth sounds, and often it’s the tracks that deviate from this which are the most interesting, such as the brilliant Diary of an 18 Year Old Boy on the first album. Here, however, it doesn’t last long. Don’t Run Away isn’t bad, but neither is it as great as it initially seemed.

Second (and last) single Make Me Believe in You is one of the better tracks on the album. It’s still lacking a bit of magic, and the lyrics don’t quite fit, but it’s got a lot more going for it than its predecessors.

Lullaby hints a little at a more interesting past, until the chorus falls rather flat. In general, there’s a theme of self-imitation here – any innovation which may have once took place is now taking a back seat as they retread old ground.

By the middle of the album things aren’t looking too bad – Ghosts is a pleasant track, perhaps even more than that, as they have clearly put some work into the lyrics. Satisfaction is distinctly average, and Son of a Gun is catchy but just a little bit too noisy at times.

Blackheart doesn’t start out too promisingly – you could be forgiven for thinking initially that it’s just going to be a bit of noodling and not a lot else. However, it’s hiding a great chorus with a squealing synth line, which combine to make it one of the better tracks on the album. There’s still something about it which doesn’t quite seem to work, but it’s not too far from the mark.

Then the closer In My Mind is a return to the average. As with the whole album, it has its moments (the snare sounds, mainly) but it’s really nothing special. Command definitely isn’t great, and it was certainly never going to set the world on fire. But it does contain a few surprises, and should have been enough to keep the fans quiet for a little while at least. If you can get your hands on the bonus disc, that’s worthwhile – unsurprisingly Jori Hulkkonen‘s version of Can You Feel far outshines the original, as does the Auto Auto version of Your Love is Like Petrol, although the rest of the remixes are pretty lousy.

Sarah Blackwood has now returned to Dubstar, although they don’t seem to be doing a huge amount. And Client are back soon with a new singer, and a new album called Authority. Let’s hope they take the opportunity to – as they once said – “innovate, never imitate.”

If you can find a copy, the double CD version of Command is the only one worth bothering with. If not, skip it and keep your fingers crossed for the new album instead.