Most helpful critical review
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Georgia Peaches and Dr Pepper
on August 30, 2007
For members of any scene, there will always be "that band" that, upon first listen, not only catches your ear, but earns your devotion as well. They become your little secret and you rue the day they go mainstream because you know it's inevitable. Case in point: Cartel.
In late 2005, Cartel released their full-length debut, Chroma, an album full of sure-fire hits that never were. So how does a band follow up their masterpiece that went relatively unnoticed? Easy--they grab a major label, along with a ton of Dr. Pepper and KFC, move into a bubble for 20 days, and document the process. With such a prime music-making habitat and fine nourishment, would Cartel finally showcase their true potential to the masses? Hertz would have been a more appropriate sponsor for their show, because the answer is "not exactly."
Kicking off "Cartel" in a peculiar manner is "The Best," an eerie track about love and coping. Vocalist Will Pugh wastes no time showcasing his heavenly voice, accompanied only by Joseph Pepper's (no relation to the Dr.) entrancing guitar. Luckily this intriguing, yet decidedly not pop-punk, sound doesn't last for long.
"Tonight" and "Lose it" drastically pick up the pace and re-familiarize fans with the classic Cartel sound that infamously lingers in listeners' heads.
The album's fun factor takes a dive with "No Subject (Come With Me)" as it strolls along at an almost painfully leisurely rate. "I Will Hide Myself Away" elevates the tempo and enjoyability with its refreshing sound and lyrics, only to be marred by a seemingly different song that has inexplicably been tacked onto its conclusion. It appears that the unwanted bonus is a continuation and mutilation of the already peculiar introductory track.
As this self-titled disc reaches its core, we're greeted by two of the catchier tracks on the CD. Add the Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem to an up-beat, horn-heavy ballad, and you've got "Wasted," a track that makes wasting life sound absolutely wonderful. This beautifully grim gem is followed by "The Fortunate," a song that's a capella opening and radio-friendly nature is sure to draw Bon Jovi comparisons.
"Hey, don't pay no mind/we are the second you're minutes behind/so you say 'yeah I'm alright'/you are the fortunate all the time," sings Pugh.
The latter half of "Cartel" is composed of slow to mid-tempo ballads, which aren't bad, but are most definitely not the fun, poppy songs that fans have come to expect.
"If I Were to Write This Song," the last official track, is a complete 180-degree switch from any music Cartel has released. It has the bluesy swagger of a Stevie Ray Vaughn song with the addition of an organ's accompaniment, making it sound like the most epic hymnal from the Deep South that never was. A strange but fulfilling end this would have been. However, another seemingly pointless song excerpt has been added, sending the high note that Cartel would have gone out on, right off key.
The asinine Wyclef Jean remix of "Wasted" serves as a bonus track and is one of the oddest combinations this side of Nicole Richie and healthy living. Starting off in a well-to-do manner with its playful Reggae vibe, the song plunges once Wyclef's fragmented and laughably bad anti-war verse kicks in.
And yet, although their self-titled release lacks the fun, anathematic power-pop of Chroma, it does possess a sound that's as sweet as the Georgia peaches that grace its cover, if slightly more bitter.