When Client parted ways with singer Client B (otherwise known as ex-Dubstar type Sarah Blackwood) it could so easily have been a complete disaster for the band. Blackwood’s idiosyncratic delivery was one of their key defining traits and without her presence it was difficult to envisage how the band would continue to function in the same way.
Blackwood’s replacement, Nicole Thomas (aka Client N) might not possess the same vocal timbre as her predecessor, but she does bring a certain assured, adult quality to Client’s sound that wasn’t there before. In fact, Authority sees the band making concerted steps forward into more considered and mature pastures. It’s the first time the band’s faces have featured on the album cover; they normally prefer a shot of their legs. This time, they’re pictured, in full and in elegant dresses rather than the hostess uniforms and fetish gear that defined the look of the band in their earlier years. Although they still utilise pseudonyms, there’s a sense that the band has made an effort to grow up. To put it another way; they no longer sound like an electro version of Kenickie on a sugar-rush.
The first few seconds of the album provide further evidence of the band’s maturity as the title track leads off with a quote from James Madison which states “The prime goal of Government is to protect the minority of the opulent from the majority… in order to do that, you have to concentrate power in the wealth of the nation”. What follows is a charged electro-pop gem with genuine political fire in its belly. It’s not unlike an appropriately corrupted version of Dreadzone’s Little Britain. Nicole Thomas delivers a forceful vocal and soaring chorus as the synths swirl around her creating a sense of dread, but also acting as an invitation to dance. With pop music currently generally lacking any kind of political basis, it is heartening to hear something that doesn’t preach apathy by saying nothing, but actual action.
Quarantine is in a similar vein, and harks back to electro’s early years when it soundtracked a world that was living under the shadow of technology; cowering in fear. Lyrically it’s far darker and alludes to some kind of parasitic royal family. Lines like “They have no moral code, young girls they have killed, single purpose wretched bloodline to fulfill, we’d better grow some teeth” once again suggest a revolutionary aspect to Client that wasn’t there before. It’s something that suits them just fine.
Those fearing that Client’s new, more serious outlook is steering them away from their more pleasurable aesthetics needn’t worry. XXX Action returns the band to full on, filthy nightclub sauciness. Artificial bounces along like a Japanese kids’ show theme tune. Essentially it’s just a list song, but it is fun and quirky despite sounding like a saccharine and E-number nightmare. You Can Dance is a squelching floor-filler that draws parallels between the abandonment dancing, hot and sweaty sex, and religious awakenings. As if to drive the point home, it’s a song that bears a passing resemblance to Madonna’s output, back when she was upsetting the Vatican. It’s not the only song to possess a vague whiff of Ciccone, it’s also there on Obsession’s ’90s dance vibe (which also treads a similar path to Chvrches at times), and in the vocal lines of After Effect.
This is an album that sees Client in a transitory state. It’s certainly a step away from the original incarnation of the band, but not a such a completely fresh start that they’d alienate the fans of their earlier work. It will be interesting to see where they go from here, but for now, this is a fine return from a band that has been away for too long.