Collider by Cartel


There are hardly any Pop-Rock bands out there who’ve had a debut album as memorable as Chroma. Cartel started out so strong that the fans it garnered during the process of relentlessly touring in support of the said album were of equal parts excited and scared. It gets really difficult to churn out quality albums that can hold the listener’s attention in this genre, but if there was any band amongst the plethora of Pop-Rock acts that could do it back then, it was Cartel.


For some reason, people were ticked off a little too much because of MTV’s Band in a Bubble and didn’t credit the self-titled sophomore release for what it was. An album and an EP later, Cartel went back to the studio without a producer, crafting an album that seems like the music they always wanted to make.


#1. Second Chances 3:07
#2. Take Me With You 3:22
#3. First Things First 4:16
#4. Best Intentions 4:14
#5. Thin Air 3:37
#6. Uninspired 3:13
#7. Sympathy 3:46
#8. Mosaic 3:22
#9. Disconnect 3:15
#10. Collider 3:37
#11. A Thousand Suns 3:59


Will Pugh: Vocals, Rhythm Guitars
Joseph Pepper: Lead Guitars, Backing Vocals
Nick Hudson: Bass, Backing Vocals
Kevin Sanders: Drums


Will Pugh


26th March, 2013




That being said, it must be noted that Cartel is not just another Pop-Rock band that you listen to over internet radio and forget about the next day. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – Will Pugh’s voice is unarguably one of the best voices out there. The rest of the band is bursting with talent as well, so it goes without saying that their brand of the genre is phenomenal in its own way. I spent about a year being obsessed with the band’s last effort, Cycles. I didn’t understand the indifference for the self-titled album. Like I mentioned above, Chroma is easily one of the best albums I’ve ever listened to. A band can’t possibly slip out of your good books after writing closers like the magnificent Q & A. For me, those two songs are more than suffice to lift this band above every other Pop-Rock act that enters the scene with a hit or two only to then disappear into oblivion. Clearly, I haven’t disliked anything that the band have come out with till date and this album doesn’t change that either.


To know that Say Anything (Else) and Honestly were the two songs off the album to sell more than a million copies, you can roughly estimate the scale Cartel set for itself with the debut. When the first song off Collider – Uninspired came out, people started drawing parallels to the glorious Chroma days. The band has evolved and tweaked its core sound in the course of the last three studio albums, but they never really used the platform that the debut record created for them. Collider is everything we liked about those albums, particularly Chroma and so much more.


Neal Avron in my opinion did a fantastic job as the producer of the last album, Cycles. Tight songwriting with a miscellany of ideas, ranging from fun radio-ready Pop-Rock anthems to harder and emotionally-charged melodies. I would be lying if I say that I wasn’t a little unsure about Pugh taking the role of a producer for the In Stereo EP. However, he makes sure that I disown my doubts as early as Second Chances, the steadfast opener that takes cues from the merits of the self-titled album and gives it a Cycles-touch. The band has completely opted against slow-burning ballads and relies on meaty pop songs for the core sound this time around. First Things First seems heavily influenced by Conduit at first, but creates an identity of its own after multiple listens. This holds true for the rest of the songs in Collider as well – what seem devilishly catchy at first grow on you like vines later.


Things are taken a notch higher halfway down the album after Thin Air – featuring one of the strongest choruses Cartel has ever written, the song displays how skillful Will Pugh is as a producer. We were aware about his impeccable pop-sensibilities, but to see him write hooks as refined as these is a different pleasure altogether. There’s a sense of comfort in Collider which replaces the brooding and restless aura of the previous albums, which gives the band a new persona. When Uninspired was unveiled, I assume that there were people who disliked the self-titled record went back to it and were surprised at how good it sounded. No matter how old I get and how “mature” my taste gets with every passing year, I’ll always have a soft corner for well-written pop songs and Uninspired is one such gem that I’m sure I’ll revisit from time to time.


The bands refuses to look down from thereon, with every song executed to perfection. It’d be unfair if I mention the fan-favourite Mosaic and leave out the playful Sympathy, so I guess it’d suffice to say that the last five songs prove to be a victory lap for Cartel. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever heard from the band, and though the lyrics are a little too simple, it’s this effortlessness that we’ve grown to appreciate. After the wildly infectious title track, the closer A Thousand Suns reminded me a lot of Retrograde and the now-defunct The Graduate – it soars higher than the rest, bringing Collider to an end in the best way possible.


My viewpoint of the band might be slightly biased because of what the previous albums mean to me, but I must assure you that it doesn’t cloud my understanding of good music. The kind of honesty and a knack of writing strong pop melodies that Cartel brings to the table is hard to find these days. As it stands, Collider may never be an overtly-ambitious indie record or a band’s coming-of-age, but happily settles to be the album that you listened to more than anything else.





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