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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Belt

ALBUM REVIEW: James and the Cold Gun - James and the Cold Gun

One of the best rock records of 2023 so far

As referred to in the review for another excellent self-titled debut album by Blondshell, there is something to be said for uncomplicated, guttural rock music.

Cardiff’s James and the Cold Gun are perhaps even rawer than Blondshell, with their debut self-titled effort recorded in a garage and little else save for the vocals, three guitars, one bass and drums captured.

Signed to Pearl Jam’s Seattle-based label, Loosegroove Records, James and the Cold Gun have been releasing music since 2019, this first LP joining last year’s EP, False Start, and a smattering of singles preceding each longer release.

Comprising James Joseph on guitar and vocals, James Bliss providing lead guitar, Al Jones also on guitar, Peter Smith on bass and Jack Wrench on drums, the five piece rattle through 11 songs mainly lasting between two and four minutes.

Lead single ‘Chewing Glass’ kicks off proceedings, sounding like a Reuben track at first before morphing into a monster rock song in the stylings of Royal Blood. The Royal Blood influence is probably the most obvious across the album while the song is notable for bringing in brief driving piano – a rare outsider to the five-piece rock party which accompanies the riffs like a Queens of the Stone Age or Highly Suspect track.

Photo credit: Luke Shadrick

Peter Smith’s bass and James Bliss’s lead guitar are consistently at a high standard throughout, with third single ‘Something to Say’ a great showcase of their talents as Joseph sings about running out of sympathy for someone who’s a ‘fake’.

‘All the Wrong Places’ sets an urgent tone with a lovely ‘oo-oo-oo’ in the bridge from chorus to verse which wouldn’t sound out of place in Brighton rock band, Beach Riot’s armoury.

‘Bittersweet’ tells of an unsavoury relationship with both players just as bad as one another with Bliss’s lead guitar soundscape the sonic highlight. Second single, ‘My Silhouette’, features a killer chorus with the riffs leading the way once again.

Maintaining a high standard throughout, the pinnacle is reached just over halfway through with ‘Grey Through the Same Lens’ and ‘Saccharine’, the former the one acoustic number detailing mental health issues in a poetic way which best showcases Joseph’s sometimes overshadowed vocals, while the latter is the most punk of the 11 tracks, with chugging bass and tom-heavy drums accompanying lyrics about a deceitful person.

There’s very little to pick apart on the album, although occasionally the excellent musicianship, cranked up to 11, renders Joseph’s vocals difficult to distinguish which is a shame considering what a great voice he has, as demonstrated on ‘Saccharine’, ‘Cheating on the Sun’ and ‘Three Years’.

Lyrically, the album centres on relationships, from lusty odes to documenting their end, with personal dissatisfaction another core theme. It’s ‘heart on your sleeve’ stuff and with punchy guitars and drums, it’s a pleasingly heavy assault on the senses. More than just Cardiff’s answer to Royal Blood, James and the Cold Gun have released one of the best records of 2023 so far.

Verdict: 8.3/10

James and the Cold Gun is out this Friday (21 July) via Loosegroove Records


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