To be completely biased, I think the mid 2000’s (especially 2005) produced some of the most memorable works that we in our early/mid-20’s still turn to whenever we want to feel nostalgic. This magic worked for Georgia pop-rock band Cartel‘s debut album Chroma, in which their first single “Honestly” not only rocked the charts, but was a hit on MTV and in teen films like John Tucker Must Die. While Cartel has somewhat fallen off the grid in terms of popularity, Chroma is one of those essential albums that every person who thoroughly enjoyed the mid-2000’s music scene should hold close to their hearts.
Let’s talk about the singles shall we? Cartel gave us hopes of a promising career with their popular first single “Honestly” and only continued that excitement with their second single “Say Anything (Else)”. Both tracks have powerful vocals from frontman Will Pugh, melodic guitars and strong percussion that proved to listeners that they were ready to take the rock world by storm. Both tracks were also extremely infectious and you’d have to try really hard to not want to bob your heads or sing along to them.
With “Honestly” everything from its peppy instrumentation to its catchy-yet-relatable lyrics of pining after someone that won’t give you the time of day to its music video portrayal of those lyrics in the form of online dating pre-Tinder made it the sparkling hit that it was. Lightning struck twice with “Say Anything (Else)”, in which its positive message of”‘you can do whatever you put your mind to” paired with equally happy-go-lucky riffs and drums made. It definitely wasn’t surprising that Cartel star power grew with the popularity of both of Chroma‘s hit singles.
If you haven’t listened to Chroma a billion times already, “Runaway”, “Matter Of Time”, and “The Minstrel’s Prayer” are some pretty awesome staples that should be played on repeat. “Runaway” sugarcoats the idea of karma behind clean pop rock instrumentation, but lines like “I know you get what you get/you get what you deserve” and that idea of begging whoever this song is meant for to just tell the truth for once in their life truly bring this underrated track to life. “Matter Of Time” somewhat wraps up what was started in “Runaway”, but more so delves into the idea of feeling like you need to be more like this “perfect” person that society believes that we should strive to be. Lastly, “The Minstrel’s Prayer” gives listeners a passionate perspective on just how much an artist has to try in order to have their music resonate with their audience in a meaningful way and not just taking the easy route of writing “stupid silly songs” that “keep trying to catch your ear”.
Like my colleague Murjani Rawls, I also got to see Cartel on their anniversary tour celebrating the release of Chroma. I definitely give the band props for remembering the album that got them noticed and actually wanting to go on a reunion tour. Performance-wise, Cartel worked smaller-in-size Roxy Theatre in Hollywood, CA as if they were performing to a sold out stadium, which is all a longtime fan could ever ask for. While the crowd itself was a little questionable and surprisingly a tad too rowdy for the nature of Cartel’s style, the band put their heart and soul into performing this influential album in its entirety as if it were the last time they were performing it.
As a longtime fan of Cartel, it’s saddening that they’re extremely underrated. Sure, Chroma is by far the best album that they’ve released, but their self-titled sophomore album as well as Cycles, In Stereo and their most recent release Collider weren’t terrible either. Maybe it was that random MTV show they did when they were recording Cartel that knocked them off the grid, or maybe it was the fact that there was just A LOT of musical competition around at the time. At least they still recognize the impact that Chroma made on a generation of music listeners and chose to go on an anniversary tour for it. Long live Chroma! “So I guess I’ll see you, I’ll see you around!”
Pop Rock|Epic Records