Vital, cathartic, and essential are some of first words that come to mind when I think of James and the Cold Gun. They first came to my attention last year when I saw they were signed to Loosegroove Records, who has released some great music over the years and is owned by Stone Gossard and Regan Hagar. I checked out their ‘False Start’ EP, which I also reviewed here, and immediately bought everything I could by the band. James and the Cold Gun were formed by James Joseph (ex-Holding Absence) and James Biss (ex-Frown Upon) and rotated through some other band members before settling into what is hopefully a now permanent line-up. Their debut full length has been on the way since late 2022 with the release of hard rocking first video ‘Chewing Glass’ and is finally arriving. This has been my most anticipated album of the year, and it lives up to my high hopes by a wide margin.

The aforementioned ‘Chewing Glass’ kicks off the album and already feels like a classic that has been permanently etched into my brain due to repeated playing for the last 7 plus months. The door closing at the beginning welcomes the album as a lone electric guitar and James Joseph’s vocals set the tone for what is to come. Slowly more guitars and the rest of the band crash down the door and lay waste to everything with the chorus refrain of ‘I’m spitting blood; I’m chewing glass’ providing hope and inspiration in the darkest moments. ‘Something to Say’ follows and was the only prerelease song that didn’t initially grab me in my soul. It has grown on me immensely and works amazingly within the context of the album. The bouncing approach to the verses allows each word to stand apart and then the break in the drums at the first chorus brings the vocals to the forefront. The band channels some of the best parts of rock music over the past three decades and injects it with their own style and approach. This song could have appeared in the 90’s and would still be getting played on the radio today.

‘All the Wrong Places’ turns back up the tempo and spills out of the stereo in a surge of adrenalin with another amazing hook. If you’ve ever enjoyed the likes of RFTC or the Hives, this song should immediately appeal to you. It leads into the slower but still rocking ‘Bittersweet’ where the band provide a lot of space in the verses, but the guitar and bass are irresistible underneath the vocals. This song should be getting played on stereos and on computers all over the world. The rhythm work of Peter Smith (bass) and Jack Wrench (drums) is locked into a great groove here. This one has a chorus that burrows into your brain without you realizing it. ‘Headlights’ contains a chaotic start recalling early ‘Rated R’ era Queens of the Stone Age with Joseph providing primal sounding vocals that fit the song perfectly. It leads into one of the other early singles, the hook filled ‘My Silhouette.’ This one maintains the up-tempo edge and has one of my favorite choruses of the year. The triple guitar attack of Joseph, Biss, and Jynx is used brilliantly throughout the album but especially here.

Starting the back half of the album with the acoustic led ‘Grey Through the Same Lens’ recalls the late Mark Lanegan with some bluesy electric guitar tastefully added as the song progresses. Joseph’s vocals bleed from his soul here with the ‘I’m a bottle lost at sea’ lyric jumping out of the speakers. It sets the stage perfectly for the contrast that comes with the raging ‘Saccharine.’ This is the band at their most untamed but still contains a great hook. On their EP, ‘Plug Me In’ was one of the songs that provided me with a lot of catharsis for getting out all the negative energy in me, and this one creates a very similar feeling. I am pretty sure I can feel my vocal cords tearing when I try to sing along. ‘Alone Again’ was an early song the band did and have redone it brilliantly here. The three guitars all have space to add to the musical tapestry.

‘Cheating on the Sun’ was also an old bandcamp single that has been given a fresh set of paint here and again channels some Queens of the Stone Age type feel. Joseph’s vocals here tap into some great high notes and remind me that this band has developed their own sound but never feel like they are repeating themselves. Closing out the album is their epic ‘Three Years’ which approaches the six-minute mark. They give themselves more room to breathe here throughout the verses with the triple guitar approach being applied perfectly. As the song progresses, we can feel the emotion building and building in the music and the tone of the vocals. It’s a perfect closer for the album. 

As far as debut albums go, this one is perfect for me, but I will go further and say this is one of the best albums you will hear this year. They have managed to create their own sound and really craft an album where the songs complement one another to give the album a flow and dynamics. I could go on and on about how great this album is, but I recommend you go purchase it now and hear it for yourself. Album of the year contender? Most definitely!!

Buy Here



Author: Gerald Stansbury