BY JENNIFER KELLY
If Camouflage sounds like a retro synth pop band, it’s because it is. Founded in late 1980s Germany, the band took shape in Germany during the era of Depeche Mode and New Order. Early singles “The Great Commandment” and “Love is a Shield” encapsulated the age’s machine-tooled romanticism, with gleaming synth lines, gate-reverbed drums and the alienated reserve of android love poetry. A few detours intervened — a flirtation with real instruments, an attempt at an opera, major label disappointments, key members leaving and returning , a box set —but the band has remained more or less intact to the present day.
The lead off track, “Shine” does not sound so very different from the music of the band’s heyday, with its ping-ponging electro percussion, its sharp-focus drumming, its remote but celebratory chorus. A heady hedonism lights these plasticine grooves in strobe-flashing bursts, a kind of Happy Mondays-ish joy filtered through synthetic washes of tone. Of course, much has happened between 1987 and now, the style that Camouflage pursues has gone in and out of fashion several times. When practiced now, new wave synth pop always seems to carry a layer of irony that is not really present here. So, even the best tracks, the shambolic “Dancing” and darker shaded “Misery” have a time-capsule quality, as if they’d been waiting all his time, preserved in hair gel, for us to dig them up again.
The ballads are a little weak, hampered by a certain English-as-a-second-language obvious-ness and limp melodies, not-going-anywhere-in-particular melodies. Both “In the Cloud” and the Peter Heppner-assisted “Count on Me” meander and bog down in new romantic hazes of inexact feeling. Still, if you miss the 1980s and feel like none of the latter-day synth-wavers are getting it quite right, Camouflage is your jam.
DOWNLOAD: “Dancing,” “Shine”