Client Liaison Client Liaison [EP]

[Remote Control; 2014]

Styles: synth pop, house, ‘straya
Others: John Farnham, A.A. Philips, Yes, World’s End Press

What is Australia? (Not that). From late in the last decade, the end of commercial television’s ruling over contemporary Australian culture and the rise of the internet as a tastemaker has led to a reflection of what determines an Australian identity in the 21st century. Client Liaison hones in on the late 20th century as an aesthetic zone, one that they enshrine in a hardcore pastiche not too distant in practice from Yen Tech. However, it isn’t simply a sly condemnation of that period in Australia’s culture; it’s also a stylized celebration of the endearing banality of cultural institutions such as Chopper, Lara Bingle, and that Very Best true blue icon Warnie.

Stylistically speaking, the songs on this debut EP move between new-wave, synth pop, and house. “End of the Earth,” the opening track and the band’s earliest single dating back three years, is their most overt piece referencing Australian tropes. Following track “Feed the Rhythm” deals primarily in piano-house, with the echoes of Australiana rendered subtler beneath ravey vocal samples, saxophone solos, and a thumping bass that evokes the period of their fascination with equal magnitude, despite the different focus. It’s worth pointing out that, while the majority of this EP is more like the latter, the referential nature of Client Liaison’s music is just as brash and in your face.

It would be easy to dismiss Client Liaison’s pastiche of late 80s and 90s Australia as gimmicky and insincere if it weren’t executed with such dedication and pop sensibility. Sure, anyone could chuck on a wig and a turtleneck and dance around in a Farnham-esque video, but vocalist Monte Morgan has been sporting that gargantuan mullet around Melbourne’s CBD for years, so credit is due for that alone. But perhaps on a more relative level, producer Harvey Miller’s production is top-notch and is undoubtedly catchy, agreeable pop-song writing. While it doesn’t stray far from the period it replicates, the music’s hooks, flourishes, and references are of such a specific order that it allows their coordinated aesthetic vision to engulf the listener.

The track “Queen” is probably the best example of this, with its particular 80s dynamic heavily indebted to Wham and Prince, punctuated by orchestral stabs, guitar solos, and an accompanying video seemingly inspired by both The Bold and the Beautiful and Live-Aid. It’s both soporific and delightful, as all steps are taken to ensure its “authenticity.”

This is probably Client Liaison’s biggest strength and weakness: while their brand sets them apart, it’s committed to a specific era and a way of life that the majority of their audience could just as easily recall with either fondness or revulsion — or perhaps can’t even recall at all. The naivety of late-capitalist Australia and the image sold to foreigners (particularly tourists and businessmen) is a perverse, narrow, and unapologetic self-parody of Australian culture and sensibility.

But who am I to challenge this corporate illusion, this thin consumerist vapor? A distant parallel I might draw is to 情報デスクVIRTUAL’s 札幌コンテンポラリー, another instance of late-capitalist surreal pastiche. Much was made of that album’s supposed anti-art aesthetic that could be skewed as originating from Duchamp. But on a more immediate and logical level, the sounds of 札幌コンテンポラリー are singular, the décor is unequivocally in and of itself. These sounds and ideas may be contrived, plastic, and empty, but they’ve been re-purposed perhaps not to prove a point, but to enhance a simulated exercise, an experience, a performance.

And maybe this is the best way to approach Client Liaison: a theatrical rendition of a coming-of-age for Australia, a self-aware reflection of our own tendencies, our cultural cringe, our flaws and just how wonderful this great sunburnt land is. Or isn’t. You decide.

Links: Client Liaison - Remote Control

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