The new new wave shows no sign of breaking yet. Hardly a day goes by without another bunch of punchy, angular musicians with skinny-fit jeans and just-so hairstyles emerging to entertain us in a distinctly post-punk style. That's fine by me, because I like a lot of that stuff. I've waited years for the world of music to come round to my taste, and now that it has, I fully intend to enjoy the experience. But all this does mean that the market is getting rather crowded these days, to the point where I can't help wondering how easy it will be for Nemo to get ahead. They're energetic and wired, their songs are sharp and so are their hairstyles. At any other point over the last few years, that would've been enough to make them stand out from the Oasis-alikes that cluttered the indie scene. Now, they're fighting their corner amid umpteen bands which do, broadly speaking, the same sort of stuff. I wish Nemo well, but I'm not quite sure I heard the killer song that's going to shoulder aside the opposition tonight.
'I used to be in Black Box Recorder,' remarks Sarah Nixey, 'Until I escaped.' That's an interesting choice of words. Are we to infer Sarah Nixey's experiences with her previous band weren't altogether happy? Well, that was then and this is now. As a solo artist, Sarah Nixey is a cool electro diva in cocktail-party red, while her band maintains the traditional two-blokes-behind-electronics line-up. The music is equaly cool: as chilled and clear as a glass of neat vodka. Slinky electropop stylings weave their way around the vocals, and the band steer an assured course between drifting ambience and thumping dance beats. A cover crops up - a deadpan rendition of the Human League's sci-fi classic, 'The Black Hit Of Space', a song which sounds positively quaint these days, with its lyrics about charts and tone arms. In these days of downloads, does anyone know what a tone arm is? Does anyone pay the slightest attention to what's in the charts? I confess it's been a mighty long time since I've taken an interest in the top ten, but if Sarah Nixey makes it in there - and she could - that might change.
Client are in the middle of an unfeasibly extensive European tour at present, of which this gig is just one stop-off of many. That's an indication of Client's success: they may not have quite notched up their own black hit of space yet, but they've got a healthy cult following all over Old Europe. That probably counts as a more meaningful achievement than a brief burst of UK chart action these days. The band's trademark combination of severity and amiability, glacial stand-offishness and disarming warmth, is in full effect tonight. Zipped up in dominatrix dresses, Client look like the head girls at Miss Stern's Academy Of Austerity, and yet they debunk their style with knowing grins and camped-up stage moves. There's a similar collision in the music - that precise, glassy electropop, every beat, every bass note positioned as carefully as a jeweller might place a diamond on a tiara, every chorus rising up to a glorious crescendo. And yet Client B, on vocals, maintains a certain detached melancholy throughout, as if Miss Stern has instructed her in no uncertain terms to keep it all inscrutable. That's the beauty of Client - the juxtaposition, the collision, of elements that shouldn't work well together, except, somehow, they do. And sometimes, when Client B arches an ironic eyebrow, or Client A smiles to herself at the keyboard, or even as Client E swings her bass as insouciantly as a catwalk model might swing a tote bag, you realise that underneath it all, they're having fun.
For more photos from this gig, find Client & Sarah Nixey by name here.