The Client sound is based on icy girl group harmonics that recall the Ronettes out switched with the Human League’s backing singers in a time-traveling prank, but the synths and electronics are tightly controlled pulses of pop/dance perfection: big, catchy, and slightly ominous. The mood is upbeat, the lyrics bemoan the lack of good music, music that saves lives, on the radio. No problems so far.
“Come On” is built on a synthezoid swagger that almost reminds me of the Stooges, distroted, thuggish synth lines knife dance with cavernous rock drums, over which the girls’ emotionless speak/singing of “come on/come on baby/you know you really want me baby” is even more jarringly effective. To have lyrics of such a cloying nature, delivered so uncaringly, is a pretty punk gesture. Most female pop has been built upon the artifice that the galz really mean it; Client, quite obviously and fuck-you-ishly don’t.
The behemoth that looms large over the rest of the album is “Overdrive.” Goddamn, right overdrive. About sent me into hyperbole overdrive, to hear the most talented diva of new romantic/synth pop spar with the new kids on the block. That’s right, fucking Martin Gore lends his translucent angel voice to the chorus of “I want you/And I want you/ Yeah” thus rocketing the song 100 notches up. This is what Depeche Mode should fucking sound like now! Goddamnit! At last Gore is reunited with blood simple one-fingered synth buzzes that are all dark like the Normal or Controlled Bleeding and a strident drum machine. Shit, have Gahan make some room for the girls, their manicured vocals are damn near essential to this sound. Gore even gets the last “Yea-a-ah.” Yeah!
“In It For The Money” has club track stamped all over it, but it’s surprisingly turgid. Just a matter of what you’re into, I guess. “Pornography” evokes the pervo-electronics that Soft Cell oozed all over the world once, playful but dirty electro pop with a hint of violence, and a sozzled Carl Barat lends his syrupy voice to an extended chorus of “just you and me/pornography” that is filthy as a beaten raincoat. The harried “Down To The Underground” features a defeated-sounding Pete Doherty chanting the refrain with Clients A and B and then moaning softly behind the girls verses. I’d forgotten how good he can be.
“The Chill of October” is the show-stopping chanteuse moment that this album was begging for. Both Client A and Client B harmonize, “cry the night away/boy I think it’s over,” over huge melancholy string loops — perfect mood music for a rapidly encroaching autumn. “Don’t Call Me Baby” lets you wallow in the glorious little tragedies of the kitchen sink drama lyrics, while the four to the floor beats and toy synths buzzing away in martial cadence send you back out, strutting your stuff on a high-fashion runway/city street. “It’s Rock and Roll,” while lyrically not unlike a particularly rabble-rousing Motorhead number, musically is closer to the catchier bands on the Metropolis Records roster like Covenant and Apoptygma Berzerk. “Everything Must End” sounds a lot like the Mode’s “Sacred.” And we like that.
Much of City sounds like prime 101-era Depeche Mode, which may be due to the fact that they (Client A and Client B) formed the band while touring with Depeche Mode or that Client are signed to Andy Fletcher’s Toast Hawaii label. But I think it’s chicken and the egg the other way around; Depeche Mode are keeping Client as close as possible because the music of City reminds them of how stadium great they once were, BEFORE they decided to fuck around with guitars. And how that minimalist electronic cityscape majesty can be theirs again. As for the Client membership, well, who wouldn’t want to be Depeche Mode’s muses?