This might be CMON’s first album, but it’s far from their first rodeo; the band’s made up of Josh da Costa and Jamen Whitelock, both of whom were part of New Yorkers Regal Degal – the band split after the release of their second album Not Now in 2015, but the pair literally and figuratively regrouped in Los Angeles a few years thereafter with their old chemistry still intact. When placed into the wider context of their other work, Confusing Mix of Nations is less of a natural next step after the dissolution of their old band, and more like a hard reset.
Even their chosen moniker (pronounced ‘c’ mon’, it both is and isn’t an acronym, as reflected in the album title) suggests a leap into the unknown, and with da Costa on production duties and a wider range of instrumentation at the duo’s disposal, they encourage the listener to take that leap with them. Kicking off with the scattershot ‘Coo’, kept in line by its bass-and-drums foundation even as it takes a number of stylistic diversions, the 10-track collection finds the pair taking ideas and running with them. Their left-of-centre pop smarts are combined with a knack for experimentation and eclecticism that makes for a frequently thrilling record that isn’t especially concerned about fitting in anywhere.
Early highlight ‘Dreamfucking’ recalls their past work in its love of repetition and sweeping psychedelia, offering up one of the record’s best instrumental hooks – depending on your point of view, it may or may not be in need of a chorus, but there are plenty of those to go around elsewhere. Case in point: ‘Good to Know’, which flits between a nagging feeling of melancholy and icy synth-pop grandeur, offering up both with a considerable sense of ambition. The album’s strength lies in how purposeful it all sounds, with the bloody-minded determination of its creators married to the sort of slick-as-hell songwriting that drives the likes of ‘Peter Pan’ and flagship single ‘Zoo’.
Uprooting their lives and relearning their craft for this new venture can’t have been easy, but da Costa and Whitelock have approached this new chapter in their music-making careers with a laser-focused attitude that makes these multifaceted songs sound effortless. Whether it be ‘Mindboggling’, which opens up into strident noise-pop held together by an irresistible groove, or the muscular power-pop of closing track ‘Letdown’, Confusing Mix of Nations is constantly engaging throughout its 40-minute runtime and covers a wide swathe of ground while never losing sight of its goal. Their past experience working together has served them well, and there’s any number of avenues they could explore from here. Think this album might be for you? CMON and find out.