Album Review: Client Liaison ‘Diplomatic Immunity’
From the ashes of the late 1980s/early 1990s foreign affairs scandals and ATO inquiries have risen our nation’s most charismatic, groovy, stylish, and financially savvy Co-CEOs, Harvey Miller and Monte Morgan of Client Liaison PTY LTD. Hot on the heels of announcing a takeover bid for Qintex LTD, the rising investment consortium and retro alt-popstars have released their debut album/business biography ‘Diplomatic Immunity’.
The Melbourne dance duo have been steadily winning over the hearts and minds of young Australians since the release of their 2013 nostalgic synth-pop single Feeling. Since then the pair have released two highly-acclaimed EPs, 2014’s ‘Free of Fear’ and ‘Client Liaison’, played sold-out national tours, and been the talk of the festival at Splendour In The Grass, Listen Out, and Groovin The Moo.
Their debut album ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ for many has been a long time coming, especially considering the fanfare which surrounded the release of their recent singles Wild Life and World of Our Love. With their first full-length “multisensory experience” of Aussie dance music that’s “international in flavour, cosmopolitan in style”, Client Liaison finally have 11-tracks that truly showcase why their lush production, quirky instrumentation, and lyrics about sensual corporate and diplomatic dealings have become irresistible to their ever growing legion of fans stakeholders.
Client Liaison’s obsession with nostalgic Australiana has never been subtle. Some may find their music and extravagant live shows simply a novelty, but there’s something purely glorious about the album opening with cackling Kookaburras, the croaking of a didgeridoo, and an Aussie parliamentary speaker calling for “Order!” amongst squabbling politicians. Once the pulsating bass and retro keyboard hook join the Australiana soundscape of Canberra Won’t Be Calling Tonight it’s impossible to not let your limbs move in time with the deep groove.
“From its deep pulsating beat, nostalgic synthesisers, Morgan’s suggestive lyrics and warm melodies, a short-but-sweet saxophone solo, and catchy AF chorus, the song just has everything you want…”
The combination of Morgan’s lyrics about questionable diplomatic ties and samples of politicians debating about alleged ‘signed documents’ easily thrust you into Client Liaison’s shady nostalgic corporate world. Never has hearing stories about foreign affairs, business dealings, and possible tax avoidance been so groovy.
The album’s second single Wild Life continues the nostalgic boogey vibes with simple beats, fluffy synthesisers, and some super funky guitar work. Morgan’s vocals are as charming as ever as he flirtatiously croons “Wild life, nothing to lose when we’re far away in paradise/The crazy things we do, I could never live without you”.
The track is an instant addition to any party playlist, and its music video (see below) is the perfect example of how to throw a pimpin’ late 80’s synth-pop party…complete with tasseled earrings, chunky bling, and of course a stuffed parrot.
A Foreign Affair begins with dreamy synthesisers before a pilot’s voice confirms you’re flying somewhere exotic with Client Liaison PTY LTD. Featuring the vocals of Miller’s childhood hero, and Aussie musical icon, Tina Area, the song is a glossy feel-good duet about a lustful romance in a far away land.
The many layers of percussion, cascading synth hooks, and the joyful but super cringey lyrics makes A Foreign Affair one of the best tracks Client Liaison have produced. Make sure you find someone special and hold them close when they play this one live…
Things immediately go from romantic to hot ‘n steamy in Off White Limousine. A booming beat and a simple funky guitar riff set the scene for Morgan to seduce the pants off you. Whether it’s on the leather of his limousine or backstage, he doesn’t mind. The lyrical theme continues in Hotel Stay, however it’s backed instead with a suave synthesiser soundscape and longer held vocal melodies instead of sensual “ooohs”.
The album’s lead single World of Our Love showcases everything that has made Client Liaison continually see their shareholders grow. From its deep pulsating beat, nostalgic synthesisers, Morgan’s suggestive lyrics and warm melodies, a short-but-sweet saxophone solo, and catchy AF chorus, the song just has everything you want in a synth-pop banger.
Where Do We Belong is the upbeat cousin of the album’s opener. Funky guitar and rolling synthesisers drive the late-night nostalgic club track, while sporadic didgeridoo growls, punchy horns, and a pan-flute solo show Client Liaison’s ability to explore and execute a range instrumentation. While Morgan’s lyrics aren’t particularly memorable in this track, you’ll be humming “Where do we belong?” for days…
The Bravest Beginnings is somewhat of a rare slow burner for Client Liaison, and is easily Morgan’s best vocal performance on the album. However, the duo have always tread a fine line between being unique and just re-wrapping late 80s synth-pop, and the slow tempo and emphasis on the vocals means the track would sit perfectly in Madonna’s first album.
Rounding out ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ are three throbbing tracks, each giving nods to slightly different retro synth-pop styles. Home is a smooth track full of sassy female singers dubbed over Morgan’s introspective lyrics (y’know, deep down what actually does a foreign affair mean?), and some irresistible funky guitar.
Do It My Way is a minimalistic, electronic hand-clap banger with easily the most nostalgic synth tones on the album. It’s the kind of music your ‘rents cut shapes to ‘back in the day’, or what the Teepee Forest DJs spin…just with more lyrics.
“…overall Morgan and Miller seem to have aimed for the middle ground in their sound rather than continuing to reach for the more entertaining extremes of the synth-pop genre.”
Electric Eyes is a mellow but enjoyable end to the album and features, be it in a slightly subdued fashion, most of the instrumentation and synth-pop joys of the previous tracks. Morgan again shines bright, much like his onstage bling, with warm melodies and layered vocals, while Miller delivers everything from chunky bass, synthesized strings, and a delicate plinking piano melody… and of course there’s a playful saxophone, ‘cause everything’s better with a sax!
Client Liaison’s debut album ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ is exactly what you’d expect from the Melbourne duo, which is both a good and bad thing. The collaborations with Hugo Gruzman from Flight Facilities, Cleopold, and Benjamin Plant from Miami Horror mean each track offers a slight twist on its predecessors.
But overall Morgan and Miller seem to have aimed for the middle ground in their sound rather than continuing to reach for the more entertaining extremes of the synth-pop genre. Their earlier singles such as Free of Fear and That’s Desire turned heads because they sounded fresh and unlike the rest of the electronic music triple j was championing.
While World of Our Love and Wild Life are catchy and upbeat, the album is lacking the x-factor they showed in their 2014 EPs. Existing fans of the duo will love ‘Diplomatic Immunity’, but those yet to become ‘stakeholders’ in Client Liaison PTY LTD may not be so willing to embrace the duo’s novelty.