Cartel were one of the bands lurking in the darkness of 2005, who had such a poppy and listener-friendly style, it's hard to believe they were never noticed enough. Today, it was announced that the band had signed to major gaints EMI, who will surely remind us of this wonderful collection of songs in the form of a re-issue, but that's not the point. The quintet's debut album was released last year and missed by so many people, but after hearing their 2004 The Ranson EP
, I was intrigued.
They had clearly grown up. Gone were the poptastic melodies and almost lifeless lyrics that made the Blink-182 generation so popular. But half a decade later, it doesn't cut it as well. Instead, the band had clearly matured, putting more effort into chord progressions, lyrics and structure of songs. That's not to say they are not easy on the ears. The opening trio of songs are screaming to be sung by the masses, "Honestly" in particular has a chorus you can sing in comfort and with piles of energy. The vocals on this album shine well, and not because they are compared to Fall Out Boy's Patrick, but because the vocalist can sing well. I've seen live videos of them, and he sounds tremendous live.
The album has it's downer points though. It struggles to make each song stand out, and it feels like they tried to put that title on each song, causing most to be a musical crash of female backing-vocals, piano and "woahs". It doesn't really make the songs worse, but it makes it so much harder to listen to. I suppose Cartel's style isn't the kind you concentrate on, but still, it's nice to know what's going on where in an album. Another low point for me (But most probably not for anyone else) is the changing of two songs; "Save Us" and "Luckie St.". I heard the demo of "Save Us" and it sounded haunting and gave it more emotion, whereas this version sounds much more upbeat and in a way cheery. As for "Luckie St.", just listen to The Ransom EP
for the original and much better version. Like I said, this are gripes I
have. I'm certain they won't affect your listening experience.
Cartel's sound on this album feels like what All Killer No Filler
would've sounded like if the Sum 41 boys put more effort into it. The melodies are fantastic, and the musicianship is equally impressive. There are quick-paced stories with screaming solos ("Settle Down"), a tearjerking ballad led by a pounding drum beat ("The Mistrels Prayer"), and perhaps the best song on the album, the 9-minute "Q", a mixture of all the previous songs as well as some incredible and epic pop-punk work. "Q" is what gives this album that extra .5 to me. It completes it in a way that stands out from the other pop-punk albums of 2005. It's Cartel's "Konstantine", and will be their anthem for years to come in my eyes.
Their sound may not be the most original, but Cartel have clearly put a lot of effort and thought behind this album. A clear improvement on their fun-yet-dated EP, Chroma
is a delight to the ears of pop-punk fans everywhere, and I'm certain you will be hearing their names a lot more in 2006.
"The Minstrel's Prayer"
[url]http://www.purevolume.com/cartel[/url] (Songs from album: "Say Anything (Else)", "Honestly", "Runaway", "The Minstrel's Prayer")