James And The Cold Gun – James And The Cold Gun (Loosegroove Records)
Formed in 2019 by friends and housemates James Joseph (of Holding Absence fame) and James Bliss (ex-Frown Upon), James and The Cold Gun (yes, they are named after the Kate Bush song) began life simply as a means of letting off steam by making a racket in the garage. Finding that this was more fun than the day job, the then duo were just starting to write and record their own songs when lockdown hit. Once restrictions were lifted the band was fleshed out and two Eps and dozens of incendiary live shows later we have this, the debut, self-titled album.
As befits a band that started life in a garage, the record is pure, adrenaline fuelled garage rock. Think a scruffier Hives, or Rocket From The Crypt. Basically, The Sonics for the 2020s. Opening song Saccharine starts in classic garage punk style – a howl of feedback, a fast and fuzzy bass riff, a quick-fire snare drum and then a scream as the guitar comes in. It’s a trick that’s been pulled before, but when you do it this well, who cares?
The record itself looks great. The sleeve could be straight out of early 90s Seattle – a blurred black and white photo of the band with the name in a banner down the side. It looks like a Charles Peterson photograph from an early Soundgarden show or even a NYHC record (I’m thinking Judge’s Bringing It Down) and it really suits the rough and ready nature of the music.
That’s not to say it’s underproduced, merely that it’s not OVER-produced (a crime in this kind of music). They seem to have managed to translate their live sound onto record, a feat that, for example, the 22-20s never pulled. Their live shows were incredible sonic assaults but then the album came out and it was just so disappointingly quiet. This is a LOUD record.
Lyrically, while much of the record is classic rock and roll (“Like a deer in the headlights, You make it feel like the first time, Give me chills give me cold sweats…a feeling that I’ll never forget” from the rollicking Headlights), there are also moments of doubt and vulnerability, an acceptance that we all have our faults. When Joseph sings “I think I need saving” on All The Wrong Places it feels like he’s merely stating fact, and this honesty is both refreshing and endearing. Many bands with this kind of sound seem like they’re trying too hard to be cool. JATCG just sound like they’re having fun.
There’s rage and anger about the state of the world (“Can you feel it closing in? The race is rigged but you can’t win…all those things you could’ve been” from Three Years) while Through The Same Lens dials back the volume for a gentle acoustic number that again highlights that self-doubt – “It’s lonely stuck inside my head all week”.
Then there are the moments – the cough over the intro to Saccharine, the opening door that introduces Chewing Glass – that reinforce the impression of a band having a great time just being a band.
Overall though, it’s the guitars that are front and center. It’s music to punch the air to and have a blast bouncing into your friends. Big riffs, pounding drums, impassioned vocals and huge choruses – these are songs that you’ll be singing along with by the second listen and that’ll be stuck in your head after the third. It may not be ground breaking but it doesn’t need to be – I’d far rather a band breathe new life into an old sound like this than be new for the sake of being new (I’m looking at you Thom Yorke). There is so much energy and enthusiasm to the music that you can’t help but be swept along.
This is a cracking debut and JATCG seem destined for bigger things. They’ve already played with Pearl Jam and Guns and Roses and it won’t be long before they outgrow the more intimate venues that, for me, are the natural home of loud punk rock (did I mention they were loud?). So grab a copy of the record and catch them live in a small-ish room while you still can. I’ll see you down the front…
Simon Smith – July 2023.