Monday, February 14, 2022

"The Great Commandment" by Camouflage

Song#:  3753
Date:  12/24/1988
Debut:  98
Peak:  59
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Synthpop, Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This German synth/electronic-based trio were influenced by other pioneers in electronic music including Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Apparently, they even took their name from the track "Camouflage" which appeared on the 1981 Yellow Magic Orchestra album BGM. The trio set up their own little studio and began working on songs. By 1985, they were branching out to playing in clubs. In '86, one of their demos was submitted to a local radio station for a song contest and they ended up winning. That attention later helped them secure a contract with Metronome. In the fall of '87, the trio released their first single for the label, "The Great Commandment." It would do well in Germany reaching #14 with a follow-up single also doing well. By March of '88 they were ready to release their debut album Voices & Images (#16 Germany). The success at home led to a US distribution deal with Atlantic Records who would then push out "The Great Commandment." It would become a big hit on the Dance chart spending three non-consecutive weeks at #1. The tune would also do well at Modern Rock getting to #3 while spending three months in the bottom half of the Pop chart. The song helped the album get to #100. A follow-up single, "That Smiling Face," would be a minor entry at Dance (#37) and Modern Rock (#26).

ReduxReview:  Depeche Mode much? Seems like back in the day, some US radio listeners thought Camouflage was some kind of Depeche Mode offshoot project. I read a 1988 interview with the trio that was in the Chicago Tribute where they said they were getting tired of the constant comparisons to Depeche Mode. They recognized Depeche Mode as an influence, but said their album was different. While that is true, I couldn't help when listening to it that they were the German version of Depeche Mode. I don't think they set out to directly copy the UK band, but the influence is very strong. If you are going to show your influences on your sleeve, then you better do something interesting or unique to make it stand out on its own and the problem is that Camouflage didn't necessarily do that here. The track itself is fine, but it does come off like a second tier DM track. It reminded me of all those Madonna wannabes that came along after she hit it big. A couple of them were able to grab a charting tune, but in the end everyone just preferred the real deal.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The trio followed up their debut in 1989 with Methods of Silence. It would do well in Germany getting to #13. It featured their lone German Top 10 hit, the #9 "Love Is a Shield," which made it to #35 Dance/#23 Modern Rock in the US. After that, the trio would be reduced to a duo for three albums that fared less well. A reunited trio would return in 2003. Their next three albums would do fairly well with 2015's Greyscale reaching #14 in Germany. Their last charting song in the US came in 1991 when "Heaven" got to #18 on the Modern Rock chart.


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