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Electropop's CMON Feel the Noise on 'Confusing Mix of Nations'

Photo: Kathryn Vetter Miller / Courtesy of Mexican Summer

Pop duo CMON mix and match contemporary and retro influences to craft the dark dance-pop on Confusing Mix of Nations.

Confusing Mix of Nations

Mexican Summer

3 April 2020

Confusing Mix of Nations, the new album by CMON, could be the bold, dayglo, synthpop party we all need right now. The album is poppy and danceable, mixing and matching decades worth of influences within it, though a heart of darkness beats steadily within the album's lyrics. While Confusing Mix of Nations is a debut album, the members of CMON – Josh da Costa and Jamen Whitelock – are hardly musical newcomers. Regal Degal, the Brooklyn-based band da Costa and Whitelock formed with bassist Josiah Wolfson way back in 2009, specialized in a dark post-punk sound. Regal Degal was a compelling rock band with some dance influences around the edges.

CMON is more of a pop operation, though the songs on Confusing Mix of Nations represent a natural extension of the more accessible sounds Regal Degal had begun to explore on its 2015 album, Not Now. CMON reflects the current pop and dance music trends that da Costa and Whitelock have soaked up during the past decade in Miami, Los Angeles, and New York City, so modern dance-pop lovers ought to enjoy Confusing Mix of Nations. At the same time, fans of earlier iterations of electronic dance-pop going back to the early 1980s are likely to enjoy the album as well. CMON wrap their influences into a distinctive overall sound that feels simultaneously contemporary and retro.

CMON opens the album with "Coo", a slinky invitation for listeners to hit the dance floor, even if only the dance floor within one's mind. That is followed up by "Good to Know", a straight-up pop tune with a distinct Pet Shop Boys feel, both musically and lyrically. "I thought I'd take you to a late, late show / After hours, a silent movie," sings da Costa, before noting, "It's good to know / Your body's got a mind of its own."

While the songs on Confusing Mix of Nations seem designed for modern dance floor action, an off-kilter melodic sensibility runs through them. Tracks like "Celluloid" and "Mindboggling" are, at heart, nifty pop tunes. In fact, "Mindboggling", a song about a girl who is alluring but distant ("It doesn't make sense / Mindboggling"), would sound as comfortable on the first A Flock of Seagulls album as it does on Confusing Mix of Nations.

CMON brings the album to a close with "Letdown", in which da Costa admits, "I'm tired of being messed up all the time." But even when singing, "Don't wanna be a letdown" and noting that they're "living in the dark of eternal night", CMON can't help but get your head bobbing with hair metal power chords, big drums, and addictive stabs of synths backing up their promise to cut down on the partying and get themselves straightened out. Like much of the album, "Letdown" is modern and retro the same time: it's a 21st-century pop tune that also happens to feel like a great lost Roxette single.

"Living in the dark of eternal night" might feel like an apt description of our current global pandemic situation. Still, existential dancefloor angst can happen anytime, anywhere, and CMON taps into it quite effectively on Confusing Mix of Nations.


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