Album Review: Cartel “Cycles”


Band: Cartel

Album: Cycles

Label: Wind-up Records

Rating: 3/5


by Aaron Binder

In the genre of pop-punk it can be hard to differentiate between bands at times.  Production values are generally quite high, lyrics are usually simple and hooky and the sound is easy to bob your head to.  In other words, there just isn’t much below the surface. You usually won’t find Satriani level shredding on a pop-punk album.  That isn’t meant as a dig though, pop-punk has produced some of the most musically sound albums of the last 20 years; Dookie by Green Day, Enema of the State by Blink 182 and The Offspring’s Americana.  Since this resurgence in the mid-90’s, pop-punk has remained as a constant in the rock music world.

Since the second wave of pop-punk began, many bands have thrown their hats into the ring to try and compete in an incredibly vicious market.  Cartel is one of those bands that have ridden the rollercoaster through their career.  Their third album, Cycles, was released this past October to not much fanfare at all.  It seems the music world does have some memory and Cartel’s second, self-titled flop was fresh in everyone’s mind.  There is, after all, a price to pay for corporate sponsorship and immediate fame.

Cycles attempts to pick up the pieces, as well as some extra cred, hiring Brent Paschke (N.E.R.D.) and Rick Cousins to produce a couple of tracks.  Unfortunately, for all of its ambition, it falls just short of being a memorable album.  Overall the album is listenable and there are a few tracks worth keeping on the iPod (Deep South and Conventional Friend among them). There are high spots on the album, there are low spots and there is also quite a lot of mediocre placed in-between.

During the recording process they attempted to capture the live spirit of Cartel, and rightly so, as the band tours almost relentlessly.  It does end up sounding bang-on in that regard. The sound is big and a few of the songs could be epic arena-fillers.

Overall, this is a great stepping-stone back into the real music world after their sophomore disaster of a social experiment. If they continue on this track with their next album, they may hit upon the perfect formula.


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