Cartel – In Stereo
Not that there’s any pressure on Cartel or anything, but they do have this rep as one of the Best Freakin’ Bands Of All Time in the pop-rock world. Definitely not the most recognised, nor the most toured, but they have an ability to churn out fantastic tracks, one after the other, on every single release they put out. So it’s enough to leave anyone hesitant to know that the recipe for hopeful success has been changed this time around. With the departure of bassist Jeff Lett, the parting of ways with Wind Up Records and the decision to release ‘In Stereo’ purely in digital form, apprehensiveness is excusable.
We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. ‘In Stereo’ is the most mature, progressive material Cartel has ever released. “Something To Believe” lays waste to the notion that musicians in this genre aren’t as skilled as say, their metal counterparts. Will Pugh’s always-incredible voice wraps around a dual attack of guitar and drums in what might just be the catchiest track of the year. ‘Conduit’ proves that they’re not just all pop and no punk, with the raw angst of everything that’s happened to this fair band in the past two years spilling out in a fast paced, cathartic anthem. The whole EP is a soundtrack to the Indian summer we’re all praying for; or rather, exactly what is needed to tie us over ‘til the sunshine months (or until we can afford a getaway to LA).
The only criticism I could make of ‘In Stereo’ – and I make this only after searching for one – is that the production simply doesn’t live up to its predecessors. Such is the nature of things when you go solo, I suppose, but this band deserves their sound to be captured in crystal-clear quality regardless. It is only a small issue, though, and one vastly overshadowed by the fact that Cartel have achieved what seemed to be an impossible task: an original sounding pop-rock record.