Camouflage are a bit of an unusual band. Having spent the late 1980s treading in the footsteps of Depeche Mode and OMD and often having been quite a long way behind their forebears. But somewhere between those early releases and the 21st century, they matured into an extremely good group.
They still owe a lot to their influences, and I’d probably still group them into the surprisingly large number of German artists who want to be Depeche Mode, but that’s by no means a bad thing, as I think I’ve pointed out previously. They are clearly a group who has something to say for themselves, and really that’s all that matters.
The comparison with other acts is not unfair. Listen to their 2001 compilation Rewind (we will do here one of these days) and you hear recycled sounds of other artists every step of the way. Even 1995’s Spice Crackers struggles with its identity somewhat. But ten years ago this week, they returned from an eight year gap with their sixth studio album Sensor, and they really haven’t looked back since.
Sensor kicks off with Me and You, which still has very clear influences, and is very true to them, but is an excellently moody song nonetheless. There’s a slightly anthemic quality to the melody which is hard to resist.
The second track is Perfect by name and an extremely good song too – in fact, there is little to fault in the first half of the album. Harmful hints at Ultra levels of pain; while the catchy Here She Comes is gentle and sweet with a bleak, dark atmosphere which sounds nothing like the slightly daft pop of their earlier years.
It’s fair to say, then, that Camouflage had by 2003 matured into an extremely good group. Success outside Germany still largely deluded them – The Great Commandment had been a decent hit outside the English speaking world and had even made a bit of an impact in the USA, but that was as big as they had ever got. A shame really, because Sensor really deserved a bit more attention than it got.
I Can’t Feel You and particularly Lost are also strong tracks, although the latter contains one of their few moments of lapsed English (“feeling two foots tall”) which isn’t really a problem, but it does make you slightly question how much sense the lyrics are actually supposed to make.
From I’ll Follow Behind onwards, the album is a little less strong and a bit more variable. Blink is a particular highlight, with its brilliantly atmospheric analog synth backing, pulsing along. Even if I don’t know what a “receiver cone” is, the melody is rather brilliant too.
The first single from the album was the next track Thief, released a full four years before the rest of the record. It’s therefore tempting to put some trust in Wikipedia‘s  claim that the album may have been recorded as early as 1998, but held back for some reason. Thief is not, strangely, among the strongest tracks in its album version – the original single version was much better.
It’s worth a mention for the curiously directed album cover, which shows the three band members as prints sitting on a bench in front of a mottled marble wall. It kind of works in its own way, but it’s tempting to suggest the photographer just said “oh, this will be an interesting photo.” The back cover is interesting, too, showing the band’s faces reflected in a puddle.
Together is another softer track with a strong production behind it, and the last track You Turn is an excellent closer (except for the hidden one that floats in afterwards). I’d suggest that there are probably too many tracks altogether – a couple of them are instrumentals, but fourteen is still a lot to deal with. But all in all, apart from a few niggling little flaws, Sensor is a pretty excellent album.
Sensor doesn’t appear to have made it onto iTunes, but you can buy it on CD via import in most parts of the world.