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Cartel (Bonus Track Version)

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Customer Reviews

A very rushed effort...and it shows...

I've been a big fan of Cartel for a long time now, have seen them live and I can truly say that they are on top of their game, and one of the best live bands in the powerpop punk scene, The sky is the limit for them...if they can avoid what ends up being the "death touch" for most bands...the dreaded sophmore slump. Unfortunately for Cartel, it rears its' ugly head on this album. "Cartel" lacks much of the upbeat angst and emotion found on their earlier work, and the whole album comes off feeling rushed with very little to distinguish one track from the next. The album lacks flow, jumps around quite a bit, and nothing feels very fleshed out at all...in fact, this album actually comes off as more of a demo than their EP "The Ransom." Many songs clock in just under 3 minutes or less, and the sing-a-long catchy qualities that can be found in almost any song off of "Chroma" are not present here. You simply end up going from one track to the next, not really realizing what track you're on, until it reaches its sudden end, not even realizing that the time has gone by and with little left that will actually stick out in your brain. That's not to say there is no redeeming qualities in the album what-so-ever. Much like Patrick Stump did on Fall Out Boy's "Infinity On High", Cartel lead Will Pugh really tests the range of his voice on several tracks, going from incredibly deep and melancholy ("I Will Follow") to impossibly high falsettos ("No Subject - Come With Me"), laying a good foundation of what we could see in later works from the band. The incredibly catchy "Lose It" is a definite winner on the album, and "I Will Follow", the outro to "I Will Hide Myself Away" is a haunting tune ladened with electronics very akin to "Chroma's" techno injected ballad "A." The "Fortunate" is also a very decent song that will probably come off a lot better at a live show. The real winner on the album is "Wasted" which features some of the best story telling (not to mention wordplay and flow...) that I've heard in a song since Jason Mraz burst onto the scene a few years back. It's an incredibly well written song that tells some pretty heartwrenching stories, all the while never losing it's zest or coming off as overly-sentimental. If there is any one song to download off the album...it's this one. Avoid the Wyclef Jean version though...it's a pretty badly done re-mix that has none of the appeal of the master track. Unfortunately...other than those I mentioned, there's not much more to the album. Even the liner notes feel rushed (there is only one photo of the band, followed by nothing but basic lyrics and credits. The liner notes aren't even decorated in any way.) Speaking of the liner notes, it was only then that I discovered that the entire album was written and recorded during Cartel's recent appearance on "Band In A Bubble," which may explain the rushed feeling...because that means the entire album was written and recorded in less than 20 days. Unfortunately, the bubble did the band little favors, and the sophmore slump seems to triumph again. This doesn't spell the end of things for the Cartel though, as many a good band before them has bounced back after putting out not so stellar sophmore efforts. Lets just hope they take their time (but not too much) crafting the comeback...

I blame the bubble.

Normally I'm one of the only ones to say, "I actually like the new one better." This isn't one of those times. They wrote and recorded the entire album in "the bubble," in 20 days of being locked up together in... what I am only assuming is a somewhat bubble-like structure, and being recorded 24/7 and fed to the internet. I think that the bubble experience, combined with the curse of the Sophomore Slump, made their musical progression go spazzo. Tonight, Lose It, This Is Who We Are, and The Fortunate sound like Chroma B-sides. No Subject, Wasted, and Georgia sound like an evolution, a step forward. (Wasted is my favorite. The storytelling is killer. It's touching and thought-provoking, without trying too hard.) And I Will Hide Myself Away, If You Do, If You Don't, Lonely One, and If I Were To Write The Song sound like a step backwards. They're long and laborious tracks that are actually a pain to sit through. The Best is just weird (I'm talking progressively, not musically. It's great, but short. Wouldn't have the song any other way.) I got the physical copy so I don't have Get Away. And the Wyclef Remix of Wasted is just a no-no. Wasted sounds just plain wrong this way. I would probably think better of the album if they hadn't released Chroma or The Ransom. They were both incredible; the songs were addictive and emotional and very difficult not to like. When I first heard Honestly, I actually thought, "Wow, why don't I listen to this band yet?" I could listen to every song on Chroma and they would make me happy, cheer me up. But this album is a disappointment. It has its good points, but the good points are about equal to Chroma's (few) bad points. It's disconcerting because I know how good they can be and I know they have so much potential.

If Anything, it's a step backward

Cartel bursted onto the scene with "Chroma" officially just over a year ago. What they delievered was one of the most incredible pop-rock albums in the past several years. Every song carried incredible emotion, meaning, and passion - whether a ballad, or a full blown rock song. Not to mention, the closing tracks "Q" and "A" showed nothing short of musical geneous, combining lyrics from the entire album to create an eleven minute rock-opera of sorts, not accomplished since Green Day's "Jesus of Suburbia". The follow up can be considered the dreaded "sophomore slump". I can't help but strongly disagree with previous reviews saying this shows the maturity of Cartel. I believe it shows the exact opposite. The lyrics are far less creative and inspiring than those of "Chroma", the songs, while experimental, fail at delivering the catchy pop choruses that Cartel's older material carried. Stand out tracks seem to be the single, "Lose It", "Tonight", and "The Fortunate". I could more or less take or leave everything else. I will continue to support the band, but I can't see this album having much staying power.

Biography

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...
Full Bio
Cartel (Bonus Track Version), Cartel
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