Who is Mondo Cozmo?
Despite producing a couple of über catchy songs that wasted no time rising to the ranks of cyclical inclusion in the rarified and coveted air of KCRW’s playlists, Mondo Cozmo (aka Joshua Ostrander) seems enveloped in a certain mystique.
We know that he used to be a member of the now-defunct Eastern Conference Champions. We know that his debut album isn’t quite ready for release, lawyers be damned. We know that he hails from Philadelphia and thus brings with him a toolbox of Northeast scrap and hustle. But that’s about all I knew in advance of seeing him Wednesday night at a sold-out show at Hotel Café.
About that mystique. It is challenging to determine if this is an organic result of the growth of an artist, or instead, a more coy and calculated orchestration of the powers that be. Lana del Rey rode a wave with similar arc to fast web stardom prior to the release of any of her music, and she, too, once performed under a different moniker.
After the Hotel Café gig, at the very least, I can report that Mondo Cozmo goes big. Big songs, big moments. He swings for the fences and mostly hits pop home runs. It is hard to believe that the show was merely the fifth time(?) that he and his band convened to perform. It was like showing up to the park to see the new kid on the block fly a kite, and instead he launches a rocket. How could this be?
Summoned to the stage by local tastemaker Nic Harcourt for an anthemic six-song set, Mondo Cozmo went straight for the pop fan jugular with harmonized “na na na’s” to start his first song, “11 Acre.”
The first of four KROQ-sized tunes rolled out during the set, “Chemical Dream” referred to the aforementioned rocket launch with the celestial-bound forewarning, “We are all systems go.” The line easily doubles as a state of the union report on Ostrander’s burgeoning stardom.
Two other monsters, the sublime “Plastic Soul” and desperate “Hold On To Me,” each leverage distant background samples that evoke Moby’s cross-cultural magic brew found on Play.
Since their introduction to the world, someone from Mondo Cozmo wisely invited trumpeter CJ Lawrence and saxophonist Peter Slocum to the party. A live horn section helps prevent Mondo Cozmo’s unified sound from being a bit too sample heavy. The energy that the pair infused into “Higher” ushered the song into Brit-pop territory, though perhaps with a bit more Robbie Williams than something Gallagherian.
The half-hour-long pop assault ended with Mondo Cozmo’s bread and butter, “Shine.” The number starts with an acoustic strum under Ostrander’s smokey growl, then almost instantly gives way to a hands across America choral wall of sound and a requisite mid-song pause that sets it up for a final life-affirming swell.
I’ve never seen a new artist so shelf-ready right out of the box. I expect Mondo Cozmo’s debut LP will see the light of day early in 2017 and that millions (seriously) will be singing along to these hooks by next year’s end. We may even find his name in small print at the bottom of the Coachella bill. From there, the question remains as to where else on our FM dial we will find Joshua Ostrander.
Mondo Cozmo at Hotel Café Setlist:
Hold On To Me
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