ALBUM REVIEW: James And The Cold Gun – ‘James And The Cold Gun’

Artwork for James And The Cold Gun’s ‘James And The Cold Gun’

So apparently, garage-rock is supposed to be cool. More to the point, it’s supposed to naturally be cool. And yet, you wouldn’t know it from the number of fake-it-till-you-make-it soundalikes, whose entire purpose is predicated on riffs and fuzz to hide that they’re just doing what they’re supposed to. James And The Cold Gun could’ve been that band once upon a time—a duo, plying riff-rock of a clearly defined stock, of which the avenues for expansion were pretty unclear. And yet, even from a debut EP that still wasn’t fantastic by any stretch, the cogs of something more were still whirring. There was natural pedigree from frontman James Joseph originating in Holding Absence; furthermore, the backing of Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard could get some certain alarm bells ringing out.

And just look at ‘em now—fleshed out to a five-piece (and handily cutting the legs off any of the usual rock duo stereotypes), to the point where they’re ready to open for actual Guns N’ Roses, and drop a debut album that’s a giant leap up in almost every way. It’s all there while serving as a totally natural continuation of what they already had. There’s still a fat riff around nearly every corner, and a sense that Queens Of The Stone Age make up a not-insufficient part of this musical DNA. But now, that’s backed up with the muscle that an expanded lineup brings, evident from how insanely hard the hook of opener Chewing Glass goes, and reinforced by the likes of Headlights or Alone Again.

All of this comes well within the knowledge that no wheels are being reinvented; hell, you’d be hard-pressed to find any being repurposed for more than their intended use. It’s what some would even call ‘good, old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll’ if they had no self-awareness of how out-of-touch they’d sound. But it’s kind of true though, given how there’s not a lick of gimmickry or trickery outside of the core fundamentals. And to that end, James And The Cold Gun do make this work terrifically, in a way that sounds raw and realistic, and beefed up by the production accordingly. It’s never stilted or awkwardly trying to cram itself into the ‘proper’ mould; it just works in natural form.

That’s really all it takes for music like this to be good, and James And The Cold Gun only highlight its rarity with their debut. It’s not even like the album itself has a stunning array of sounds or ideas to latch onto. It’s just fundamentally solid in the territory that it explores, rough and rambunctious while also displaying bigger ambitions, and finding a way to mould them a sensible way. There’s also Grey Through The Same Lens at the album’s centre, the acoustic moment that’s the most marked departure from anything else, but it’s just as connected tonally. There’s a more grim, baleful feel to it, as the low swings of acoustics are backed by electric sizzles to fill it out more and recalibrate the mood. It’s honestly a great departure from what James And The Cold Gun establish as their ‘norm’, without feeling too far outside the wheelhouse, or reaching for something the band clearly can’t grab. And for those seeds to be in place and integrated on their first proper swing…it’s got some impressive implications for whatever they may do down the line.

Honestly, the Queens Of The Stone Age parallels might just take the form of core ideals for now—and, at this stage, James And The Cold Gun still feel fairly far from going to as great, wild distances as Homme and co—but evolving into a more fluid, try-anything-once sort of band could be on the cards. Though right now, that’s probably getting ahead of things. It’s worth James And The Cold Gun embracing what they’ve already got, at any rate—a genuinely fun, genuinely cool foray into this quadrant of the rock map, where there’s more than enough for them to stand out with. As rare as it can feel within garage-rock, there’s not a nonexistent chance of it happening; here’s your proof right here.

For fans of: Queens Of The Stone Age, Tigercub, Demob Happy

‘James And The Cold Gun’ by James And The Cold Gun is released on 21st July on Loosegroove Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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