Sludgefeast-Sludgefeast ’92 (Springloaded Games)

Sludgefeast-Sludgefeast ’92 (Springloaded Games)

There are times when I think that Sludgefeast might be one of the best cult bands of all time. Their songs are short, usually less than three minutes long, catchy, loud, and usually about computer games. It all stems from the mind of James Barnard, lead songwriter, guitarist and singer and only founding member of the band. His output was pretty prolific, releasing seven albums in nine years and as many EPs and singles too. Since then, Barnard moved to Singapore, actually started making computer games for real and has been working on the album Judas Feast ever since. In 2015 he uploaded a ‘Work in Progress’ version. Rumour has it he is still tinkering with it. It has become his Chinese Democracy, but hopefully a lot better…

Barnard sporadically emerges with a new track, or EP, but on this occasion, it is a new album. Or an old one, depending on how you look at it. 2022 makes the 30th anniversary of the band and so Barnard was trawling through his archive, listening to early recordings, live sets and generally revisiting his (misspent) youth. After listening to these recordings, he decided to re-record them the way they originally sounded in his head, but he was without the technology to pull it off.

The opening track is a 12-minute spoken documentary. This lets us know the aims of the album and that things are not to be taken too seriously. It’s part serious documentary and part ‘On the Hour.’ Throughout Barnard gives us examples of his youthful enthusiasm vs. his talent/proficiency at song writing, playing, and singing. Which he claims wasn’t very good, but there is something to the ramshackle recordings which still speak to me. It is self-indulgent, tender, hilarious, heart breaking, awful and generally entertaining. Anyone who has seen The Feast live will know that James is being both serious and facetious. Like the music he creates, and his on-stage persona, he is amping what a rockstar is. They are vapid with an undying belief that what they are doing is important, whereas they just play music some people like. And this is what makes Sludgefeast 92 such an enjoyable listen.

When the album starts, the songs explode from the speakers. The guitars sound amazing and his singing voice is as good as it ever has been. ‘Reality’ is a standout track. It has a classic Feast riff. Huge and catchy. The drums are tight, and viscera and the solo are pretty great. It foreshadows a lot that was to come, whilst having that clunky joy to it that all teenage rock has. ‘Archway’ is also a standout. Sounding like Neil Young and Crazy Horse. The guitars are crunchy. The drums pulsate and the bass throbs the way you expect. It doesn’t really do anything new, but it shows a different side to Barnard’s song wrting. The solo has flourishes of ‘November Rain’ to it. This isn’t vintage Sludgefeast, but that’s not the point. So, it’s cool. Its interesting to see where Barnard could have gone if he hadn’t started writing about computer games. ‘Pale Globe’ sounds like a reworking of Devo’s classic ‘Gut Feeling.’ The basis the main event here. ‘What’s Wrong?’ feels like his take on ‘Teenage Kicks.’ And this is the downside to the album. Every song sounds like a, and I use this word loosely here, proper song. You can see the embers of where Sludgefeast would go, but Barnard wasn’t confident, or proficient, enough to do his own thing. And again, this is what makes Sludgefeast 92 such an enjoyable listen. It’s like looking through old photographs of yourself. You can see the things that you held dear to you, whilst trying to work out who you were. This is what Sludgefeast 92 does. It makes you feel nostalgic but not in a bad way. Its fun to look back to see how far you’ve come. And Barnard has come very far indeed!


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.