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Album Review

There's nothing new under the sun, especially not in pop music, and there's absolutely nothing new or innovative or even particularly forward-looking about Cartel's big guitars, big hooks, and big-voiced lead singer. That's not to say that this Atlanta-based band is retro at all — on the contrary, it's just very much a creature of its time. Call this music pop-punk if you want, but really it's just pop, and more power to them. The album opens powerfully, with two pitch-perfect exercises in hooks-wise guitar rock, the bombastic but tight "Say Anything (Else)," and "Honestly." When things start getting a bit soft it's less a problem with the music than it is a problem with the lyrics: "Save Us" is nothing but a pile of clichés and meaningless phrases ("Now it's all gone but what it takes to make it real/We're standing on the edge of this"), and there's something vaguely creepy about the football-chant phraseology in "Burn This City." Perhaps worst of all is "Minstrel's Prayer," which actually contains the line "Oh carry on, you minstrels of the world." Yeesh. But most of the songs are much less embarrassing than those three, and the big, tight guitars and cathartic chord progressions go a long way toward redeeming even those. Recommended.


Formed: 2004 in Atlanta, GA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Cartel's earnest brand of emo-pop emerged out of Atlanta in 2004, when vocalist Will Pugh, bassist Ryan Roberts, drummer Kevin Sanders, and guitarists Joseph Pepper and Nic Hudson released an initial EP that caught the ear of the California-based Militia Group label. Militia signed Cartel, and the Ransom EP reappeared under Militia's guidance in 2004. The label then released Chroma, Cartel's full-length debut, in September 2005. The album cracked into the Billboard Top 200, as bloggers championed...
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Chroma, Cartel
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