Some musicians will do anything for fame. In Cartel's case, the guys went so far as to live in a Dr. Pepper-branded biosphere for 20 days, with multiple webcams tracking their every move as they banged out a new album. The ploy worked on the surface -- Cartel debuted at number 20 upon its release in 2007, besting 2005's Chroma by more than 100 chart slots. The album quickly fell from the charts, however, leaving platinum-selling groups like Fall Out Boy and Paramore to carry the emo crown while Cartel licked its wounds. Released two years later, Cycles finds the group taking another stab at creating an anthemic piece of work, replete with triple-layered guitars and carpe diem lyrics. "Let me introduce myself" goes the very first line, an apt lyric for a band whose previous record evoked memories of Pauly Shore's Bio-Dome, and Cycles does a fairly good job at realigning Cartel with 2009's crop of emo-pop groups. There's a lack of truly unique elements here, though, from the overly compressed production to Will Pugh's faux-accented vocals, whose odd pronunciations ("you" turns into "you-wuh!") are straight out of the emo-pop rulebook. Songs like "Let's Go," "Deep South," "Faster Ride" do evoke a sense of teenaged uplift, but these guys are old enough to take more risks, and Cycles winds up sounding too predictable for its own good.
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey