Client | Pittsburgh City Paper


Mute/Toast Hawaii

The members of Client desperately want you to desperately want to fuck them, but dancing to them will probably do adequately -- as long as you're desperate about it. Because in the end, this anonymous femme-fatale duo's coldly passionate, poppy electroclash isn't so much about sex as the desperation that sex sometimes entails. Likewise, despite booming synth-beats, Client isn't so much about dance as about the desperation to lose oneself which dancing often represents. It was so in the dark club world of the '80s, and therefore, it is so in the club world of today. After all, Client isn't the 15-minute dahhhling of the electro world -- first signing to Depeche Mode lifer Andy Fletcher's new label, sleaze-gals of the moment in New York, London and Europe -- for nothing.

Client's best songs are the ones that actively display that desperation, and a fatalist attitude towards love and life -- the hit-to-be "Here and Now," the robot-groove soul of "Sugar Candy Kisses," the electro-ode to chemistry "Pills." Even when they sing "Rock and roll is all I want to do," it's within a minor-key depressant demanding "no more shattered dreams for what I could have been." Like an electro Joy Division, Client manages to play with the imagery and accoutrements of rock and dance music, without all that silly hope getting in the way.

In the 1980s, whenever Depeche Mode got naughty -- via oblique drug references or overtly fetishistic sex -- it was with the dashing-yet-evil grin that couched everything fun during that despicable decade. It was as if the decade's response to hippies' optimism and disco's "anything goes" hedonism was to become more hedonistic, but to darken it with hopelessness and guilt. Artists like Depeche Mode and the Human League, and less electro-oriented bands such as New Order, made 1982 records that sounded like what they foresaw pop music would be in 2003 (or 1984). To unleash themselves as artists, those electro-pop pioneers used the technological advances that constrained them as people; in one of the inevitable twists of history and art, their predictions came true. Today, artists like Client make songs that sound like Depeche ("Here and Now") or New Order ("Civilian"). Those records resound with 21-year-old spiky-haired kids not only because it sounds like what their older sisters listened to, but because "What brought us to this / what brought us to life / what brought us to the here and now / this trouble in time," sounds as much like 2003 as 1983; as much like W. and Blair as Ronnie and Thatcher.

Electroclash is a passing fad, and that's one of its greatest qualities: It's a musical genre essentially banking on the fact that it won't last too long. So it's funny yet appropriate when Client sings: "Client / We innovate, never imitate." Because, while it's a lie (one needn't listen to Client -- just look at the artwork, which blatantly rips off Detroit electro stars Adult), it's also essential to Client's repertoire of moves and grooves that the listener suspend reality for a moment, and believe in that innovation. Take the postmodern-vogue anthem "Happy," which jabs cynically with the dance-floor question, "I'm happy / she's happy / so why the fuck are you not happy?" The song's descending synths-and-bass line is so deadly serious -- as serious as Client's cold, Big Brother singing -- that suspended reality is the only thing keeping it from becoming only a parody. (Of course, all modern electro has varying amounts of parody in its parity, a bit of ironic analog to its true-love digital.)

A whole lot of Client could be considered pretty vapid and inane stuff -- they are, after all, part of the endgame of an ultra-specific musical trend. But they're also brilliant pop songstresses (isn't that part of the deal?). Perhaps, between their boutique label's Mute association and Client's own sex-and-drugs addled synthetic purity, Client is the electro revival's great white chart hope.