Cartel - Cartel (Cover Artwork)


Cartel (2007)


If you're anything like me, you open up these reviews from time to time, look at the score the reviewer gives the album, and decide in that moment whether you agree or not without reading what is actually said. Before you judge me just as quickly here, you should know my underlying reason for not giving Cartel's newest effort a higher score -- it's not a hatred for pop-rock or Cartel, but rather disappointment. Chroma has had more plays on my iPod than I ever would have believed possible when I first heard it, due in large part to how catchy each and every song was. However, I think I'll be listening to the self-titled album far less than I expected before actually hearing it.

Listening to the album for the first time, I immediately had to force my finger away from the skip button as the album's boring first track played. Now, I understand that no one can love every song on every album, but as the songs continued to play, I noticed one serious problem: Nothing was catching my attention. Every song was forgettable, a complete one-eighty from the catchy rockfest that was Chroma. I'd already heard "Lose It," and hadn't enjoyed it as much as expected either; still, I really would call it one of the best tracks this outing has to offer. I think, personally, it's the annoyingly repetitive chorus lyrics that are the largest turn-off, but the song as a whole isn't anything you haven't heard done better. Actually, it's not anything Cartel hasn't done better.

The real standout track, in my opinion, is "Wasted," which has enjoyed almost as many downloads as "Lose It." Catchy, meaningful lyrics about serious subjects work surprisingly well here. However, this is another track that suffers from a repetitive chorus. It's only forgivable here because the rest of the song is so intriguingly written and enjoyable. Still, it won't appeal to many because the track isn't the Cartel you're used to. Synthetic beats and horns are present, without any guitars or a real band at all. You wouldn't know this was Cartel if not for Will Pugh's recognizable voice. Again, though this track is a standout, it's not what I expected from the Cartel I knew.

Some people might fall in love with this album. However, they probably won't be the same ones that fell for Chroma. I don't want to blame it on the bubble Cartel lived in, but I can only hope that is the true underlying reason for an album that is such a far cry from the music they are known for. In the end, Cartel ends up sounding as though the band was trying to force themselves to sound more mature. I, for one, would have preferred more of what Cartel had to offer back in 2005. If this album was released by a different band than Cartel, I like to think that I might enjoy it more. But, the more I try to listen to it, the more I believe this isn't the case; it really is that utterly forgettable.