Monday, October 18, 2010

The Great Commandment by Camouflage

I've said earlier that Depeche Mode had greater success in the mid-80s on Continental Europe than they did in either the UK or the US. In the English speaking world, they had some dance club favorites, and "People Are People" had been a successful single, but otherwise Depeche Mode's commercial success was on slowburn... it took a long haul of putting out modestly successful singles and dance hall favorites like "Strangelove" or "Behind the Wheel" before they had the incredible sold out Rose Bowl concert in 1988 and the massively commercially successful Violater singles of late 1989 and 1990 kicked out.

I also mentioned that at about this time, and number of modestly successful bands started imitating Depeche Mode, so it's not surprising that one of the earliest and more successful such act was from Germany. In 1988, the trio's "The Great Commandment" spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard dance chart, and made an appearance just better than #60 on the Hot 100 pop chart. Camouflage had some other minor hits in 1989, including "Love Is A Shield" which was very much in the same vein, before changing their sound to a less synthpop oriented approach in the early 90s, and losing much of their audience in their home country as a result. Of course, their synthpop audience in the US and UK were lost at about the same time, because synthpop became unpalatable to those audiences.

Camouflage did have a unique take on the Depeche Mode sound; although you can't tell necessarily from this track, they did cultivate an unusual, dream-like, melancholy atmosphere that was very different from Depeche Mode's more straightforward dark and depressing sound. The B-side from "The Great Commandment" which is the instrumental album track "Pompeji" showcases this a fair amount. Sadly, I no longer have a vinyl player, so I can only listen to the shortened album version of that song rather than the nearly twice as long extended version that came on my 12" single for "The Great Commandment." Hopefully, one of these days when I get a machine that will play or convert those vinyls, my old vinyl will still actually play. I haven't been able to find anywhere where that song's been uploaded in youtube or anywhere else, except in the shorter album version.

In recent years, Camouflage have had some success, at least in Germany, by returning to their roots and recording stuff that sounds like dark synthpop. They re-released "The Great Commandment" with new, re-recorded vocals and instrumentation, and their 2003 album Sensor is a thing of dark, raw beauty. Their 2006 album Relocated isn't bad either, although not as good as Sensor. They've certainly improved their sound over the years, including their vocals. On their first release, Voices & Images (from which "The Great Commandment" comes) the German accent was often quite strong, and their lyrics were occasionally klunky and awkward as non-native English speakers will occassionally do. Subsequently, they cleaned that up a fair amount.

No comments:

Post a Comment