Client - Heartland
Femme-electro is a sub-genre that has slowly been snowballing over the last couple of years. The success of Goldfrapp has provided a 'pop' template, although the likes of Peaches and Ladytron have kept the cooler-than-thou 'alt.' crowd pulling shapes in the trendiest dives. It's, therefore, baffling that Client haven't made more of an impact. Their biggest hit, the storming Pornography, gained them some indie cred due to guest vocals from Carl Barat - y'know, 'the other one'. Since then, you could have said they'd vanished off the face off the earth and no-one would have argued. It turns out, though, that the Sarah Blackwood-led trio were shaping Heartland, their third album and possibly their big breakthrough.
The title track sets the mood, certainly the pick of a clutch of mid-tempo synth work-outs that perfectly showcases Blackwood's detached vocal style. Lead single Drive was an odd choice for the job, as the Goldfrapp-lite disco thrills are solid but quite unremarkable. In fact, although it can hardly be said Alison Goldfrapp's music is wholly original, her imprint can be felt throughout the entire album. In essence, this means that the 80s New Wave sound that has influenced Goldfrapp so much is what these gals are trying to emulate. Sometimes it works, extraordinarily so even. The stand-out is Lights Go Out, a cert to go down well if it were sandwiched between New Order and Depeche Mode at a retro indie disco. It's a deliriously catchy and big electro-glam stomper, Blackwood the Robot declaring 'I stand guilty for loving you again'. Battling it out for the honour of 'second best track' are Zerox Machine, an update of the Adam and the Ants original that retains the slightly 'off' guitars but adds thumping beats, and 6 in the Morning, a risque offering that is waiting to soundtrack the filthiest of stripteases.
Sadly, though, the album falls short of achieving perfect-pop glory. Eventually, Blackwood's icy-cool demeanour wears thin, as does the too-slick-for-its-own-good production which, weirdly, makes it all sound a bit cheap. Tim Burgess's appearance on Where's the Rock and Roll Gone is underwhelming, while tracks like It's Not Over and Monkey On My Back are listenable but tread the same ground that better songs on the record do. Someone to Hurt, meanwhile, is a missed opportunity, this listener frustrated that its creepy undertones weren't developed into something more sonically strange.
For all its faults, though, Client's third attempt should win over casual pop fans as much as the cosmopolitan lasses who will undoubtedly try to copycat the threesome's sassy style. Album number four needs to take it to the next level, though, Blackwood. Deal?