By now, you’ve probably heard about the stunt next month involving pop-punkers Cartel; they’re going to record their next album in a camera-equipped “bubble” on Manhattan’s West Side that’s bigger than most of the apartments there, and people can, presumably, watch them eat, sleep, and work out the wheedly three-chord tunes live the entire time, thanks to the Internet. While we’re pretty dubious about any claims that “rock history” can be made by copying a pseudo-event that was first done in Australia three years ago, we’re surprised that no one has mentioned another small detail about this whole thing:
By the time it launches, no one is going to care.
For those of you who may not be up on your late-night MTV watching, Cartel is a third-rate emo band that tried to get attention with a half-cute, half-insipid MySpace-gimmick video a few months back. According to the press release that announced this Big Brother-meets-David Blaine experiment and launched a flurry of rewritten wire items, Cartel is also known for a few other things, most of which revolve around other attempts to flog their album:
While ["Honestly," which was accompanied by the MySpace clip] garnered airplay on radio stations nationwide, its companion video went into rotation on MTV, MTV2 and Fuse. In addition, the group — dubbed “A Band You Need To Know” by Alternative Press — has blanketed the Internet, winning Yahoo! Music’s “Who’s Next” competition, nabbing the AOL Music Breaker Spotlight and racking up millions of streams on MySpace. In addition, Cartel performed on TRL, was highlighted on MTV’s “Discover & Download,” spent the summer on the Warped Tour, made their national TV debut on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and appear on the soundtrack to the mega-popular video game, “Madden NFL ’07.” The band will appear on an upcoming episode of MTV’s “Cribs,” and just concluded their first-ever headlining tour.
(Cribs? Really? Perhaps it’s MTV’s way of saying “Thanks for letting our cameras roll as you spend time in the ‘spa-like bathroom.’ “)
Anyway, Cartel lead singer Will Pugh told USA Today that the bubble-living “is the best thing to ever happen to us. A platform this big can show the world that real bands still exist. There’s no outside producer, no hidden magic, just us writing and recording. It beats the heck out of being in college.” Well, points on the last part, but really, did you have to get the whole “real band” rhetoric in there? The corporate-sponsor duo and ability to show off newfangled surveillance technologies is probably more important to the suits backing this experiment than any music that might result from being cooped up in the same place for a month and a half. (And who knows what’s going to happen in the six weeks between the band being released from the bubble and the album’s July release date?)
And remember, this stunt doesn’t launch until May, meaning that there are 30 (if not more) news cycles in between the initial publicity/backlash and the time the band actually enters the bubble. Will people even care then, never mind once the album comes out? There’s so much promotional-event clutter out there that gimmicks with this much lead time burn out their media saturation during the pre-launch run-up period. Unless two of the members get into a fight on camera, or the drummer picks his nose before sticking it into the bassist’s jar of peanut butter, we suspect that this whole experiment will turn out to amount to a lot of Webcam-equipped fanfare before yet another “eh” record.
The anticipation for this bubble’s deflation is already looming so large to us, we have one thing to say to bands that might want to rush in after Cartel (and we suspect Three 6 Mafia would agree): If you’re going to do something crazy and put it on TV, have it kick off before the first press release is issued. Sure, it might be hard to distract from the building of a huge bubble in Manhattan, but keeping a lid on it not only adds an air of mystery (something that’s sorely lacking from all culture these days), it shows some promotional restraint, instead of coming off as yet another publicity stunt by a bunch of dudes who have already unsuccessfully tried to move beyond their niche.