Camouflage – Spice Crackers

It’s probably fair to say that however much you like them, Camouflage have suffered from a bit of an identity crisis over the years. From their early days trying to sound as much as possible like Depeche Mode and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, their sound did eventually mature into something special and unique, but it did take a while.

On Spice Crackers, their humour is evident from the opening title track, which includes samples from Wallace and Gromit and Crackerjack. This is an album about interstellar travel and evolution, something of a musical tribute to 2001: A Space Odyssey, so you do have to wonder slightly what the title has to do with anything. But why not?

Then comes the single X-Ray, which in its album form is a little tame compared to the manic single version. Spice Crackers was the fifth full-length album for Camouflage, released in 1995, and at this time having a single version remixed by some big name that sounded nothing like the original was all the rage. Sometimes, as in this instance, it worked in their favour. The album version is good, but the single is excellent.

Kraft, also a single, is extremely good. The title is German for “power”, by the way, just in case you were thinking about cheese, and knowing that is key to understanding this track – the whole thing is performed trilingually (if that’s even a word) in English, French, and German. It’s unique, serene, and truly brilliant.

There’s a short interlude for Electronic Music, but clearly Camouflage wanted to get all the singles out of the way as quickly as possible, so it’s the lead single Bad News which comes next. It’s a bit manic, running at maybe 20 or 30 bpm too fast to really be comfortable, but it’s a great song.

Days Run Wild follows, with some curiously synthesized East Asian sounds in the background. Spice Crackers is undoubtedly a concept album, but it’s not always easy to guess quite what the concept is. This particular theme continues with the curiously named A Place in China (Heaven’s Not).

After another short instrumental, another bizarre title follows with Funky Service (What Do You Want to Drink?) There’s clearly some kind of in-joke going on here, of which I’m not a part, but it’s a nice enough piece anyway.

Ultimately, when Camouflage find their sound, they can be very good, and Back to Heaven is a fine example of this. It’s a great piece of electronic music, with a very strong vocal, and a good melody line, which is really all you can ask for.

But as Spice Crackers continues, it seems to become more abstract. Je Suis le Dieu is a very odd almost-instrumental piece, and is followed by Ronda’s Trigger, which is great – in fact it’s one of the best tracks on here, but it is still a little bit incomprehensible.

The lovely closing track Spacetrain follows another short instrumental, and over another pleasant eight minutes or so, brings the album to its end. Spice Crackers is a difficult album – in many ways it feels as though Camouflage were still learning their Kraft, if you’ll pardon the pun. But it’s also very enjoyable, and difficult not to recommend.

The 2009 essential double CD reissue of Spice Crackers no longer seems to be in print, so go for this version, which should still be widely available.

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Week of oldies 2015

Every year around this time, the anniversaries of old albums really start to come thick and fast, and the only meaningful way we can celebrate on this blog is by having a Week of Oldies. This week, we’ll revisit some greats from Septembers past, including albums from Goldfrapp, Camouflage, Heaven 17, and others! Stay tuned…

Chart for stowaways – 15 August 2015

We’re still running a couple of weeks behind, but these are interesting charts. Well, I think so anyway. Here are the albums:

  1. The Future Sound of London – Environment Five
  2. Leftfield – Alternative Light Source
  3. Little Boots – Working Girl
  4. Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?
  5. Moderat – II
  6. MG – MG
  7. Röyksopp – The Inevitable End
  8. Camouflage – Greyscale
  9. Hot Chip – Made in the Dark
  10. Hot Chip – In Our Heads

Chart for stowaways – 1 August 2015

As the charts liven up somewhat since the recent reshuffle, here are the top ten albums:

  1. Leftfield – Alternative Light Source
  2. Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?
  3. The Future Sound of London – Environment Five
  4. Röyksopp – The Inevitable End
  5. MG – MG
  6. Camouflage – Greyscale
  7. Moderat – II
  8. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
  9. Lykke Li – I Never Learn
  10. Pet Shop Boys – Electric

Chart for stowaways – 4 July 2015

It will take a couple of weeks to catch up, but here’s the first of the new rejigged albums charts:

  1. Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?
  2. Leftfield – Alternative Light Source
  3. Camouflage – Greyscale
  4. MG – MG
  5. Röyksopp – The Inevitable End
  6. The Other Two – The Other Two & You
  7. Visage – Visage
  8. Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again
  9. Various Artists – Gri Balkon – I Had a Dream
  10. The All Seeing I – Pickled Eggs & Sherbet

Music for the Masses 31 – 9 February 2005

It’s always a pleasure to be able to hide the odd nine-minute gem in the middle of a radio show, such as the brilliant Virus Mix of Everything But The Girl‘s Lullaby of Clubland. Surprisingly, the webcam shows me looking relaxed in the extreme.

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Show 31: Wed 9 Feb 2005, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: Massive Attack.

  • The Grid – Heartbeat
  • Trance Atlantic Air-Waves – Chase
  • Sylver – Take Me Back
  • The Human League – Love Me Madly?
  • Everything But The Girl – Lullaby of Clubland (Virus Mix)
  • The Postal Service – We Will Become Silhouettes
  • Inspiral Carpets – Saturn 5
  • Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy
  • Camouflage – The Great Commandment
  • Visage – Fade to Grey
  • Pet Shop Boys – How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously? (Ragga Zone Remix)
  • The Orb – Once More
  • Massive Attack – Karmacoma
  • Mirwais feat. Craig Wedren – Miss You
  • Lemon Jelly – The Slow Train
  • Moby – Lift Me Up
  • Mylo – Destroy Rock and Roll
  • Ron Grainer – Doctor Who Theme
  • Massive Attack – Butterfly Caught (Paul Daley Remix)
  • Kings of Convenience – Know-How

Chart for stowaways – 27 June 2015

Here are this week’s singles:

  1. Röyksopp – Sordid Affair
  2. Jean Michel Jarre – Remix EP (I)
  3. The Beloved – Love to Love
  4. Hot Chip – Move with Me
  5. Depeche Mode – Fragile Tension / Hole to Feed
  6. Röyksopp – I Had This Thing
  7. MG – Stealth
  8. Camouflage – Shine
  9. Erlend Øye – Peng Pong
  10. Pet Shop Boys – Love is a Bourgeois Construct