Written by: DR on 16/10/2009 19:24:04

Pop punk in recent years has been far from stellar. On the whole, it has been the same boring, unoriginal and mundane recycled crap again and again and again that only partisans of the genre can dare defend. On the whole, that is. There have been a few bands who managed to escape from the clutches of mediocrity and create something that may not necessarily be avant-garde, but it at least had a shit-load of heart, energy and hooks injected right into the core; and that's enough.

Cartel are a bit of an enigma. They wrote one hell of a debut, which completely rehashed the pop-punk formula, resulting in an entirely fresh sound that even restored some of my faith in the genre in the process. But then on the other hand, we have that self-titled-band-in-the-bubble-bollocked-monstrosity. It's hard to believe it's the same band. Now, despite being the powerpop-punk cynic I am, and despite that second album (which over time actually grew on me a little bit) this quintet have managed to evade the sort of disdain that seems to build up specifically for bands within this crowd, and instead of criticising them, I found myself recommending them to just about everyone.

We are all hoping for a second "Chroma", but "Cycles" unfortunately is not that. The silver-lining to this cloud ("Clouds" could be the name of their fourth album, they all have names that start with 'C' after all!) is that it's not a second "Cartel". It's somewhere in between. It's more straightforward than its predecessor, but its not as consistent as that one's predecessor.

The first single "Let's Go" has more of powerpop feel to it than we're perhaps used to from Cartel, but through the questionable lyrics shines simple yet effective chord structures, great vocals and a chorus of "Let's go! Everybody, let's go! Tell ‘em we’re coming, let's go! Everybody, let's go! Stand up with me, let's go!" that is bound to have fans chanting mindlessly in unison to. You know that old adage of 'you wait for a bus for ages, then two come along at the same time'? Well scrap that. "Cycles" sends three buses. You have to wait until track five, i.e. "Only You" before you get another good song. And immediately following that are "It Still Remains" and pumped up "27 Steps", a little more dynamic than usual, but it stakes a strong claim to be one of their best songs to date. The closing song "Retrograde" spares "Cycles" blushes and ends the album on a noteworthy note, even if it has a mainstream rock feel to it.

So there you have it kids. "Cycles" is cheerful, catchy and consistently decent, maybe even very decent, but it's inconsistently good. Maybe the decent songs are actually better than the credit I'm not giving them suggests, but they don't stand as tall or have the lasting ability as those I've mentioned do. What class of songs that is a reflection on is for you to interpret as you wish. Fanatics will find something to love, everyone else will find something to like.


Download: Only You, It Still Remains, 27 Steps
For Fans of: All Time Low, Paramore, Valencia, Hit The Lights
Listen: Myspace

Release Date 20.10.2009
Wind-Up Records

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