|Client Liaison||Diplomatic Immunity|
Client Liaison — Diplomatic Immunity (4th November, 2016) ♠Ξ♠ Diplomatic Immunity has been a long time coming. The music is a velvety euphoric confection of house, pop, love balladry, disco, and techno. The album’s lyrics revel characteristically in the jargon of politics and the peculiar vocabulary of national identity. Feelings this acute don’t really exist in real life. Which is what makes them so true. It is in fantasies like those of Client Liaison that we become who we really are.
♠Ξ♠ Put it on the company card. Too much is never enough. Think nothing. Feel everything. Pleasure is good. Fantasy is truth. Experience Client Liaison.
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Album release: 4th November, 2016
Record Label: Remote Control
01. Canberra Won’t Be Calling Tonight 5:22
02. Wild Life 4:36
03. A Foreign Affair ft. Tina Arena 4:21
04. Off White Limousine 4:35
05. World Of Our Love 4:30
06. Hotel Stay 4:44
07. Where Do We Belong 4:13
08. The Bravest Beginnings 5:37
09. Home 4:40
10. Do It My Way 4:08
11. Electric Eyes 5:04
Shaun Prescott, Thursday 3 November 2016 20.36 GMT / Score: ****
Client Liaison: Diplomatic Immunity review — immaculate dance pop washed in parody and kitsch.
♠Ξ♠ On their long~awaited debut, the Melbourne act meld silky 80s dance pop with nostalgic Australiana — as long as you don’t overthink it.
♠Ξ♠ How can you tell if an artist means it in 2016? Independent pop has grown so referential that it can be hard to tell deference from critique.
♠Ξ♠ For a while, Melbourne group Client Liaison seemed an amusement belonging to the second category. They wear flamboyant curls and dress like an RSL Wham! cover band. Their music sounds like Video Hits circa 1989: club~indebted, fossilised chart pop both dreamy and assertive, aspirational and relaxed. The video used to promote this debut album is a laboured parody of 1980s corporate~chic, goading the amusement of a generation who thought American Psycho was funnier than it was alarming.
♠Ξ♠ So yeah, Diplomatic Immunity sounds a bit crap on paper. Like many of their contemporaries, Client Liaison trades in an outmoded pop idiom and, typically enough, that idiom originates from the late 1980s. It’s a popular period to parody because it threw up the likes of Rick Astley, George Michael and hundreds of tracks from the Stock Aitken Waterman production line. This ilk can’t help but evoke Reagan and Thatcher: the looming inevitability of immaculately groomed neoliberalism, the way it painted the world a peculiar shade of corporate blue. Chart pop of this era recalls these regimes, making it an attractive period for modern artists to revisit and repurpose.
♠Ξ♠ Sadly, it’s no longer 1988 — and Client Liaison isn’t really a group from the past. Opening track Canberra Won’t Be Calling Tonight samples a 2014 exchange between the former immigration minister Scott Morrison and the Labor senator Kim Carr during a Senate hearing into withheld documents related to Operation Sovereign Borders.
♠Ξ♠ Carr’s pummelling of Morrison is deliberately foregrounded, but its presence at the beginning of the album seems to preface a direction the duo never really travels in. Instead, the present is kept at a safe distance throughout: the liner notes are festooned with drawings of Fosters cans, water coolers and giant wireless telephones, as well as a botched~up letter from former governor~general Bill Hayden granting the duo diplomatic immunity.
♠Ξ♠ Juxtaposed with its backdrop of a cheerful late 80s house, that Senate hearing sample is an interesting choice. In Australia, our 1980s were different — and with the benefit of hindsight, utopian. We operated under a prime minister still mythologised as an authentic schooner skolling alpha~bloke — indeed, one half of Client Liaison has described Bob Hawke’s famous beer skolling incident, perhaps in jest, as a big influence on the group’s music. In the 1980s, at the height of our short~lived cultural export boom, we were somebody. We were Crocodile Dundee, Yahoo Serious, Kylie, Merv Hughes, Scott and Charlene. These are exemplars of our charm to many of the era.
♠Ξ♠ Client Liaison evokes that period relentlessly. Tracks such as Wild Life and A Foreign Affair — the latter featuring Tina Arena — bulge with a faintly sad optimism, an elusive hope borne of less complex times.
♠Ξ♠ Molding their songs from the soft focus ambience of late 80s club and house palettes, Client Liaison is capable of producing very beautiful pop music, suffused with a powerful combination of dancefloor vigour and bittersweet nostalgia. But the kitsch veneer can become distracting, even annoying. The duo’s affectations threaten to bury the genuine, earnest pleasures these songs have to offer; to have to stop and wonder whether they’re serious during a track like Home — a lusciously smooth jam recalling Pet Shop Boys’ moodier material — makes it harder to love.
♠Ξ♠ And while there are no stinkers on Diplomatic Immunity, one begins to wonder whether Australia’s independent music scene will ever tire of revisiting our past as salve for its present identity crisis – whether it be the antiquated pub rock of Bad Dreems, the new wave aping Shining Bird or the carefully channeled 1990s grunge of Violent Soho, to name just a few examples. Settler Australians may find little to love about themselves in the modern age, but this reflexive pillaging of the past for remnants of an uncompromised self does not bode well for our mental health, nor the longevity of our art.
♠Ξ♠ Of course, that may sound like a thoroughly neurotic hang up to you, in which case Diplomatic Immunity is among the best pop records Australia will get this year. Client Liaison is great without the retro window dressing, and a strange dilemma with it.
♠Ξ♠ Either way, the songs are undeniable.
|Client Liaison||Diplomatic Immunity|