Tales of the Working Class

They provided the soundtrack to the Backin' Belfast campaign, now indie act Pretty Cartel are going it alone

Lisburn-based five piece Pretty Cartel have won themselves a sizeable following in Northern Ireland in recent months, having formed only 14 months ago.

A radio-friendly indie group, they combine the grittiness of The Verve with the strutting accessibility of Oasis, and it’s no surprise that their debut single, ‘The Busker’, was one of the most requested songs on Northern Irish radio in March 2013.

Pretty Cartel have never known what it means to move slow, and the release of their debut EP, Tales of the Working Class, which is currently available from iTunes and other online outlets, should keep them busy in the weeks and months ahead.

The five-track EP opens with a series of soundbites set against a wall of white-noise, before Neal Connor’s bluesy guitar kicks in and Dee McIlroy’s catchy lyrics are introduced. 'She’s The One' is a superb opening track, displaying the bands brit-pop leanings.

Highlighting the Cartels folk side is 'Diamonds and Rainbows'. This jaunty, jubilant track has a Lumineers feel and it’s stamped rhythm, simple chord changes, fast finger-picking and propulsive forward motion make it one of the best tracks on the EP – and surely one of the best tracks by a Northern Irish band in 2013.

Rock is next on the agenda for the Cartels with 'Holyman', an atmospheric track that is marked by Connor’s guitar riffs, married perfectly with David Braniff’s cannoning drums. Close to five minutes in length, 'Holyman' is the longest song on the EP, which also treats its listeners to an uninterrupted minute-long rock guitar solo. You don't hear that kind of thing much these days.

The group's stomping debut single, 'The Busker', is up next. 'Just put a penny in his case, he'll put a smile on your face,' sings McIlroy, telling the story of Belfast's many street performers. It's a simple track, yet infectiously rhythmical – I'm foot-tapping before I know it. No surprise, then, that the single has over 2,000 views on YouTube already, and is currently being used in the #BackinBelfast campaign.

Pretty Cartel don't just give good glee with their upbeat songs, they can do sorrow, too. Closing the EP is 'Light Shines Through', which suggests greater depths of emotion from the band. It's an intimate, piano-led track which features some lovely strings, and holds its own in the shuffle of the band’s eclectic debut release.

With no sign of the momentum slowing down anytime soon, Pretty Cartel can look forward to an exciting 2013. Their brit-pop sensibilty is, perhaps, not exactly 'on trend' at the minute, and won't be to everyone's taste, but they should be commended for being themselves, and fans of bands like The Las should appreciate this EP in its entirety. They may just be the local band to watch out for this summer.

Pretty Cartel officially launch Tales of the Working Class at the King's Head, Belfast on May 3.

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