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Cartel: Band produces unoriginal, weak album

Tim Gallo | Thursday, September 20, 2007

Last spring, Cartel moved into a “bubble” in New York, where the group members had 20 days to record their next album, “Cartel.” During this process, the band had fans watching it through a glass window. The end result of this strenuous experiment was this self-titled album.

What is clear after listening to “Cartel” is that, bubble or no bubble, Cartel was never going to produce a solid album. It is full of generic pop-punk tunes that junior high students would enjoy listening to in the car as their moms drive them to the movie theater. The guitars are simple and fast, and lead singer Will Pugh moans and screams about girls and, well, girls.

The unimpressive lyrics sound like they have been sung by 50 other bands before them. He sings about “looking into her eyes,” “hiding myself away” and “needing you there.” These words work for over-emotional, sensitive teenagers who just found out their crush has another date to homecoming. But to the rest of the planet, Cartel sounds like another generic, boring, annoying emo band.

“Cartel” does have a few strengths. It kicks off with “The Best,” an almost seductive intro that ends too quickly. The next two songs, “Tonight” and “Lose It,” are melodic jams that, while unoriginal, make the listener tap his toes and have fun with the song. As the album progresses, however, these three-minute ditties become boring and irritating. The melodies, lyrics, and guitar riffs all blend together into one brutal scream fest.

Where this album really goes bad is when Cartel tries to get musically “creative.” Songs like “I Will Hide Myself Away/I Will Follow” prove that Cartel will never be the next Rolling Stones, much less the next Blink 182.

This experimentation reaches an all-time low at “Wasted,” which half-heartedly discusses cancer and bad parents with the chorus “We’re wasted.”

But wait, it gets worse.

The pathetic plea is backed by marching band-style drums and horns. That’s right, the same drums and horns you hear at football games. Whoever thought that a song about being “wasted” should talk about terminal illness and have a beat out of Nick Cannon’s “Drum Line” should never be near anything that records any sound.

And, to make things worse, “Wasted” comes back at the end of the album as a remix with Wyclef Jean. A bad song is given a hip-hop beat, including a lazy rap by Wyclef about how much George Bush stinks (which is a first for conscientious rappers). Both the song and the remix sound like bad ideas.

No one should be shocked that Cartel made such a weak record because no one really expects the band to make a solid one. Cartel’s job is to produce catchy pop-punk tunes that are radio-friendly. They succeed in doing this on a few songs, but beyond this, the record is a disgrace. Cartel should instead try to make eight to 10 good emo-pop songs. Any attempts beside this will just bring the music world more pain.