Written by: PP on 19/09/2007 03:29:59

Most people expected the worst when Cartel signed up to record and produce their sophomore album in a bubble filled with video cameras, allowing keen fans to track every bit of the progress of the new record. Myself I knew what to expect from the very moment the band signed to major label Epic Records. As it turns out, the end result is even worse than what you could have hoped for.

If you're new to Cartel, let me just fill you in on little detail. They're a pop punk band who released "Chroma", one of the best pop punk albums of 2005, which was critically acclaimed everywhere. It was emotionally engaging, infectiously catchy and contained some of the most sugarcoated pop melodies you'll come to hear during your lifetime: I wrote back in 2005 that Cartel "takes the old formula and makes it oven fresh", and I still stand by that claim. Today, however, all of that has gone down the drain.

The complex melodies of the debut have been exchanged for simplified, dumbed down pop music typical to major label artists, losing all soul the band had in the process. It's not that all of the songs on "Cartel" are bad, they just don't have any identity. Listening to the flawless production of "Lose It" or the cheezy recycled chorus of "The Fortunate" is truly painful, when you can just skip over to "Burn This City" or "Runaway" from the old album in a matter of seconds. These are songs that have been penned with the mainstream music buying public in mind, completely ignoring the needs and wants of the fans of their pop-punk approach. Cartel doesn't sound like Cartel any longer, Cartel sounds like . Every inch of the word 'punk' has been squeezed out of their music, while every bit of 'pop' has been amplified to unnecessary levels.

"Cartel" comes in an unfortunate time. This year has already seen about a dozen great new pop punk acts who all bring in something new or at least re-hash the first wave somehow. "Cartel" does none of that, it simply sounds as original as a white sheet of paper. Sorry. Get it only if bland pop melodies are your thing, but even so, you should still be buying "Chroma" instead.


Download: Tonight
For the fans of: The Starting Line, Plain White T's, The Academy Is...
Listen: Myspace

Release date 21.08.2007
Epic Records

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