Review Summary: See you in court, Camouflage!
If there’s one simple and effective overview of this album, it would surely be to make it crystal clear that Camouflage were OBSESSED with Depeche Mode when making their 1988 debut, ‘Voices & Images‘. To be more specific the German synth outfit had a particular fetish for the ‘Mode’s’ dark masterpiece, ‘Black Celebration’, which is never a bad source of inspiration, but when it’s seemingly the only album that dictates the sound of your debut, it becomes somewhat of an issue.
It’s almost scandalous. Camouflage copied the sound of Black Celebration to such an extent that it seems like Gahan and the gang could’ve taken them to court for plagiarism. It only takes listening to tracks like ‘The Great Commandment’ to understand why - where Meyn’s voice sounds so imitative of Dave Gahan’s baritone crawl that the listener could honestly be forgiven for mistaking the voice for that of Depeche’s primary vocalist, singing on some lost, never-to-be track. Even the musical side of things are deployed in a similar manner to DM, attempting icy, dark synth riffs, and at times succeeding, like on ’The Great Commandment’ and ‘Neighbours’, both of which feature catchy, if forgettable melodies.
Marcus Meyn over pronounced each and every vowel, forcing an English accent as if his motive was to sound like Dave Gahan, and if that notion’s true then he partly succeeded. The main difference between the two is that Gahan’s voice had some variety to it, often creeping from a deep whisper to an aggressive howl and back down to a soft, gentle hum when needed. Meyn’s voice however, rarely moves away from a deep talking voice, and when he does attempt to shake things up, like on ‘Winner Takes Nothing’, the cracks begin to show and his voice sounds jumpy, perhaps suggesting he‘s a one trick pony.
It’s also incredibly awkward in places (‘Neighbours’, I’m looking at you!) with lines like “Black men, leaders, cry for freedom. White policeman shot them dead”. To be fair, one shouldn’t mock them for attempting a social commentary with a clear pro-equality tone, as it does show some degree of ambition, but the lyrics are so vehemently obvious it ends up sounding rather cringe worthy and clumsy. Despite the fumbling lyrics, it’s one of the standout tracks on an average album, featuring floating, eerie synths. ‘The Great Commandment’ is even stronger, inarguably the most memorable tune on the record and efforts like ‘Helpless Helpless’ and ‘Winner Takes Nothing’ attempt to spice things up a touch, with the former starting with a cold piano melody, and the latter containing splashes of oriental sounding synth.
On the whole, ‘Voices & Images’ is a dish best served without too much thought and to an audience who’ve acquired a taste for dark synth-pop after being fattened up on a diet of mid 80‘s Depeche Mode. It’s best served without thought because those who listen and purposely try to pick out moments of blatant Depeche rip-offs (of which there are undoubtedly many) will be left with a sour taste on their tongue. It’s more flavoursome, then, to approach without prejudice and simply take the album for what it is: an entrée of copy-cat songs that do have some genuine charm to them, producing a pleasantly familiar taste for mega fans of Depeche Mode’s Black Celebration. And that’s not a totally bad thing at all, as it makes ‘Voices & Images’ worth a listen for DM fans, if only for simple curio factor, alone.