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Album Review: Cartel - Cycles

'Cycles' could be considered Cartel's 'difficult 3rd album'. Their first album 'Chroma' set the bar high with favourable pop-rock songs aplenty, whilst the self-titled follow up shot the band to greater mainstream fame, after recording the album as part of MTV's 'Band In The Bubble' TV show. Unfortunately the record failed to live up its hype and predecessor.

To some extent 'Cycles' is that difficult 3rd album, as for Cartel it is a challenge for them to find the route back to a return to form and perhaps, to an extent, to win back fans who became disillusioned with the band after 2007's 'Cartel'. From the start 'Let Go' promises to deliver a good record. A huge, simple chorus with Will Pugh's voice sounding perfect as ever.

'The Perfect Mistake' keeps up the momentum with a driving guitar and impressive chorus. The same can be said for 'Deep South', as the band show they have perfected the warm sounding pop-rock song with nice production thrown in for good measure.

However the album soon falls into mediocrity and predictability, as 'Only You' is your standard ballad-like power number with the typical string section and strong vocals. '27 Steps' and 'See Me Now', 'Typical' are impressive and favourable but are nothing out of the ordinary. Closing track 'Retrograde' hints at a bit of variation but fails to deliver, but much like this album in general, its good but not great.

On paper it has all the makings of a great pop-rock album, hook-filled songs, huge choruses, all-round impressive band performance, strong vocals and has an overall vibrant sound. Unfortunately Cartel are missing something, maybe its variation, maybe they've gone for the safe approach or maybe they're missing that special chemistry that made them stand out first time round. Whatever it is, it is not there any more. This is not to say Cartel are a shadow of their former selves, as 'Cycles' is a step in the right direction. For fans of the genre and the band, this will be eaten up by them without hesitation but for some, it lacks longevity and depth.


'Cycles' by Cartel is available on Wind Up Records on October 20th.

Cartel on MySpace

Official Cartel Website

Pre-Order 'Cycles' on iTunes here.

Sean Reid

Alter The Press!